How to keep your home clean to help guard against COVID-19, other illnesses

Keeping your hands clean is a basic part of keeping your home clean during times of illness.

Keeping your hands clean is a basic part of keeping your home clean during times of illness.


The COVID-19 pandemic is a good reminder to disinfect high-touch areas frequently to help keep everyone in your home healthy. Such cleaning can also protect against colds, flus and other diseases caused by viruses, fungi or bacteria.

“Disinfecting your home should be part of your usual cleaning routine, whether or not anyone at home is sick,” says Sue Murphy, director of environmental services at Upstate Medical University. “You should ramp up your cleaning by disinfecting high-touch surfaces as soon as someone in your home is ill,” and keep the patient sequestered to his or her own spaces, away from others.

She points out that viruses can live on various surfaces anywhere from a few hours to a few days.

“Hand-washing and disinfecting your home are the best methods of limiting the spread of any illness in your home,” Murphy says. When someone in your home is unwell, everyone should wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds, even more often than usual. Cover your face during coughs and sneezes, and wash your hands after doing so.

How to clean

“You need an EPA-registered disinfectant that targets cold and flu germs, so check the label and follow the directions,” Murphy says. The EPA is the federal Environmental Protection Agency, which includes a list on its website of disinfectants for use against the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

To start, wipe away any crumbs, dust or dirt. Spray the disinfectant to thoroughly cover the area and let it sit for at least 30 seconds. Wipe with a disposable paper towel that can be thrown away immediately or a cotton cloth that can be machine washed after every use. Single-use disinfectant wipes can also be used. In its guidance at, the EPA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advise wearing gloves while cleaning.

“Sponges should not be used for disinfecting surfaces, as they can harbor bacteria and, when not properly maintained, can bring more germs to the surface,” Murphy says.

To clean high-touch hard surfaces, you can mix 1/3 cup of bleach with 1 gallon of water to wipe down all hard, non-wood surfaces and floors. Read your label to make sure your bleach is intended for disinfection, and that the product is not past its expiration date. Your solution should be mixed fresh every day, as chlorine can lose its effectiveness over time. Dump the mixture after every usage to minimize risk to children or pets in the home.

Murphy cautions never to mix disinfectant cleaners with other cleaning products like ammonia or bleach because the resulting fumes can be toxic.

What to clean        

While it’s tempting to try to bleach the whole house, focus first on the high-touch objects and areas of your home.

Phones, tablets, computers and remote controls. These devices are part of daily life and are in constant contact with our hands. To clean these delicate electronics, Apple recommends using soft, lint-free cloths instead of paper towels or abrasive towels. Do not use bleach, and do not spray cleaners on the device. Use a 70-percent isopropyl alcohol wipe to gently wipe nonporous surfaces, such as the display and keyboard. Do not submerge the device or get moisture in any opening. And make sure to unplug any external power source before cleaning. Avoid excessive wiping.

Wear disposable gloves while cleaning your devices, and wash your hands afterward.

Bathrooms. Any surface that is touched should be disinfected including doorknobs; light switches; toilet seat, handle and cover; sink, faucet, even the tube of toothpaste and toiletries. Throw away your toothbrush after an illness. Do not use the same paper towel or cloth for sinks and toilets.

If the sick person in your home cannot have his or her own bathroom, they should have their own hand towel — and machine wash it daily.

Kitchen. Any surface that is touched should be disinfected, including doorknobs, light switches, sink, faucet, refrigerator handle, cabinet hardware, countertops, table and chairs. To prevent the spread of germs throughout the household, the sick person should not be preparing food for others and should have his or her own set of dishes and utensils for use. All dishes and utensils should be washed at high heat in the dishwasher.

If you are hand-washing, add an additional step of dipping the washed dishes in the chlorine bleach solution; then rinse thoroughly with hot water.

Living areas. It’s hard to stay confined to one space, so if the sick person wants to rest in other living areas, cover the furniture with sheets or blankets and change them frequently. Remove decorative pillows from the space.

Clothing, sheets, blankets and towels. When a sick person’s symptoms subside, wear rubber gloves to strip the bed and immediately place in the empty washing machine. Wash all in hot water with detergent. There are laundry additives that can give your usual detergent a germ-killing boost, like Borax or Lysol Laundry Sanitizer, or add 1 cup of white vinegar to the rinse cycle. Once the sick person’s laundry is done, run an empty hot-water cycle with 2 cups of vinegar instead of detergent to clean the inside of the washing machine. Disinfect the outside of the machine with paper towels and a disinfectant.

Cars. Whether you are the passenger or the driver, your trip to the doctor or pharmacy can leave germs behind. Disinfect any surface that gets touched – door handles, steering wheel, radio buttons, climate-control units, seat belts, mirrors — and take special care if you have a sick child in a car seat. Remove the car seat; machine wash any fabric pieces, and wipe down the hard surfaces with a disinfectant.

Since leather and imitation leather seats may have a protective urethane coating, which can break down through use of alcohol-based products, soap is the safest for cleaning fabrics and leather seats. Clean gently, with a small amount of water. Leather usually should have a conditioner applied after cleaning.

It’s a good idea to check your car manufacturer’s advice on how to clean your vehicle, since it may vary from the above for some components.

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Early detection saved her: Now it’s her job to encourage mammograms

Christina Wallace with her cat, Gracie, who helped her find a lump. (photo by Susan Kahn)

Christina Wallace with her cat, Gracie, who helped her find a lump. (photo by Susan Kahn)


Christina Wallace was due for a mammogram, but she had just begun a new job and didn’t want to ask for time off. She canceled the appointment.

That night, she stretched out on her couch. Her cat, Gracie, jumped onto her, a paw landing on a painful spot on her breast. She reached up and felt a lump. She rescheduled the mammogram.

At the age of 38, Wallace’s second screening mammogram confirmed the lump she had felt. When biopsy results indicated cancer on a Friday, she admits, “I was so freaked out, I was in surgery by Monday morning to have a lumpectomy.”

Sam Benjamin, MD

Sam Benjamin, MD, Upstate medical oncologist

That was in December 2014. Early in January 2015, she saw oncologist Sam Benjamin, MD, an assistant professor of medicine at Upstate who also sees patients in Oswego, near Wallace’s home. He oversaw her cancer treatment and continues caring for her.

Wallace had a job at Oswego Hospital, but she wasn’t able to work on the days she received chemotherapy or radiation, so she took a leave to focus on her health.

She had medullary breast cancer, a rare type of invasive ductal cancer that begins in the milk ducts before spreading to the tissues around the duct. Surgery to remove the tumor is usually the first step of treatment, which may also include radiation therapy. That’s typically followed by systemic therapy — which may include hormone therapy, chemotherapy and/or therapy that targets specific proteins.

People who carry a genetic mutation known as BRCA1 are somewhat more likely to develop medullary breast cancer. Wallace says she has that gene, plus a related gene call PALB2, which her mother also had. Her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer after Wallace completed her treatment. Only, her mother’s cancer had spread throughout her body before it was discovered, and she died at the age of 59.

“I’m a huge advocate for early detection and regular mammograms,” Wallace says. She was vigilant. Her mother was not. “Had she been practicing that, she might still be with us.”

After she recovered from reconstructive therapy and cancer treatment, Wallace found her calling. She has a new job as a program specialist and case manager for Oswego County Opportunities. She helps connect people with screening for breast, cervical and colorectal cancer. She helps people find doctors, or health insurance, or both, and she guides them through what to do if any of the screenings are abnormal.

Sometimes she tells people what she’s been through.

“I’ve had a few people who will say, ‘I have no cancer history, and I had my mammogram last year, so I’m good.’ That’s when I say, ‘Wait a minute….’

“I feel like, if my story is going to motivate them to take care of themselves, then I’m going to share it.”

Wallace continues to see Benjamin, the oncologist, every six months, in addition to regular appointments with her primary care doctor, gynecologist, radiation oncologist, and a doctor who specializes in the gastrointestinal system. Her follow-up care includes regular blood work and medical imaging. She maintains a strong faith. And every night, she comes home to her cat, Gracie.

This article is from the spring 2020 issue of Cancer Care magazine.

Christina Wallace with her cat, Gracie, who helped her find a lump. (photo by Susan Kahn)


Sam Benjamin, MD

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Officer Rosie: Preschooler undergoes treatment for rare cancer

Rosie Snowdon was sworn in as an honorary Baldwinsville police officer. (photos by Lauren Long/The Post-Standard)

Rosie Snowdon was sworn in as an honorary Baldwinsville police officer. (photos by Lauren Long/The Post-Standard)


When Rosie Snowdon grows up, she want to be a police officer.

The village of Baldwinsville — where Rosie’s parents, Jake Snowdon and Arianna Leonard, were both born and raised — coordinated with the police department and Maureen’s Hope Foundation to present Rosie with a uniform and motorized toy cruiser in November.

Rosie, 4, is in treatment at the Upstate Cancer Center for recurrence of rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare cancer.

She was 2½ in the summer of 2018 when her parents noticed something seemed wrong with her belly button. Rosie had a tumor. She underwent surgery to have it removed. Then she began chemotherapy. Ten months later, in May 2019, after what was supposed to be her last infusion, she rang the survivor bell.

When Rosie returned for a checkup scan in September, however, doctors found a new tumor.

She underwent another surgery, and she’s back on chemotherapy infusions. She also undergoes radiation therapy.

“She’s really brave. She does well with it,” her mother, Arianna Leonard says. During radiation therapy, Rosie must be anesthetized. During infusions, she occupies herself doing craft activities with other children who are in treatment, or watching cartoons on an iPad, snuggled beneath a “Frozen” blanket.

Rosie and her toy police cruiser.

Rosie and her toy police cruiser.

Cover of spring 2020 issue of Cancer Care magazineThis article is from the spring 2020 issue of Cancer Care magazine.

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Earrings, anyone? Breast cancer patient finds generosity brightens the journey

Jacqueline Rose with a basket of earrings (photo by Debbie Rexine)

Jacqueline Rose with a basket of earrings (photo by Debbie Rexine)


It was her bald head and the dingy, stick-straight hair that grew back after chemotherapy that got Jacqueline Rose passionate about earrings. She bought herself lots of pairs — glittery, silly, colorful — anything that was fun and made her feel attractive.

Rose thought that other women undergoing cancer treatment could use a similar boost and decided to leave a gift basket of earrings, anonymously, at the Upstate Cancer Center at Oneida, where she sees her oncologist Mijung Lee, MD.

The cancer center staff learned of her good deed and now lets her know whenever the basket needs replenishing.

“I enjoy sitting in the waiting room and watching a patient pick out a pair of earrings,” says Rose. “It makes me smile.”

Rose’s Story

Rose was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018. In May of that year, her gynecologist felt a small lump in her armpit during a breast exam. Rose made an appointment with breast surgeon Mary Ellen Greco, MD, at Upstate Community Hospital in Syracuse. Greco did a biopsy that day. Rose learned she had cancer a few days later and had a lumpectomy later that week. Greco ordered a blood test for genetic testing. Rose found out she had the genetic mutation PALB2 and triple negative breast cancer, a diagnosis that put her at higher risk and made her cancer more difficult to treat. Greco gave Rose a choice: alternating breast MRIs and mammograms every six months for the rest of her life, or a bilateral mastectomy. Rose chose the surgery.

Prior to the mastectomy, Rose had 16 rounds of chemotherapy at the Oneida center, 10 minutes from her home in Canastota. Chemo made her tired, but not sick, and steroids caused her to gain weight. Rose kept reminding herself, “Other people have it a lot worse.”

At the Upstate Cancer Center in Syracuse, Greco performed the double mastectomy, and breast reconstruction was done at the same time by Prashant Upadhyaya, MD. To further reduce her cancer risk, Rose has had her ovaries and uterus removed, and has contrast MRIs of her pancreas done annually. She sees Lee every three months in Oneida and will see Greco every six months for the rest of her life.

What is PALB2?

A mutation in the PALB2 gene is linked to an increased risk for breast cancer and possibly pancreatic, ovarian and other cancers.

— and

What is triple negative breast cancer?

Triple negative refers to cancerous tumors that do not have the three common receptors that fuel breast cancer growth (estrogen, progesterone and HER2/neu). This means that common treatments — hormone therapy and drugs — are ineffective.

It occurs in 10% to 20% of cases.


Cover of spring 2020 issue of Cancer Care magazineThis article is from the spring 2020 issue of Cancer Care magazine.

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How to feel better: Tips for self-care when sick

person holding a mugBy DARCY DiBIASE

When you’re not feeling well, it’s hard to do anything but not feel well.

Antibiotics won’t help if you’re suffering with a cold or flu caused by a virus.

But you can take measures to help yourself feel better. Try adding these to your self-care regimen:

Stay home and rest

Many viruses, including influenza, come on hard and fast. Alert your workplace or school that you’re unwell and stay home to limit exposing others. While home, wash your hands often with soap and water, wipe down high-touch surfaces with a disinfectant and try to stay away from others in your home.

Your body needs to battle what is ailing you. “Extra sleep can help your immune system function at its best and potentially shorten the duration of your illness,” says Heather Finn, MD, of Upstate Family and Preventive Medicine. “It can also help prevent you from becoming sick in the first place.”

Get additional sleep if you can, or curl up with a blanket to read, do a crossword puzzle or watch TV. Additionally, making sure you have enough sleep every night can help strengthen your immune system to keep you from getting sick next time. “Trying to maintain a regular sleep schedule of at least eight hours per night can help optimize your health,” she says.

Healthy people can expect to fight a cold for seven to 10 days. Flu symptoms should go away in about five days, but you may still feel weak for days after.

Consider yourself contagious until you have been free of symptoms for two to three days.

“If you have other medical conditions, such as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease or lung disease like asthma or COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), contact your primary care provider, as your illness can affect these other aspects of your health,” Finn says.

Hydrate and humidify

Drink more water, warm tea, or broth to increase your fluids. This helps keep your respiratory system hydrated and thin out any mucus, so it can’t build up in your lungs to cause an infection.

“Warm tea with honey hydrates and soothes a sore throat or cough,” says Finn.  “Be sure to avoid honey in infants under the age of 1, however, as this carries the risk of botulism.”

If you’re feeling congested in your head or chest, spend some time in a warm, steamy bathroom. Close the door and let the shower run hot.

If the air in your home is dry, run a humidifier or vaporizer in the room where you’re resting.

Treat your symptoms

“There may be no medication to cure your illness, but over-the-counter (OTC) medications can help with your most critical symptoms,” Finn says.

Acetaminophen, ibuprofen and naproxen can all help lower a fever and soothe aches. Ask your doctor which is best for you. “There is no need to treat a mild fever just to bring the number down. However, if your fever is making you uncomfortable, use the OTC fever reducer and soak a washcloth in cold water and place it on your forehead or back of your neck,” says Finn.  The old wives’ tale of “sweating it out” is just that. Keep your body temperature where you are comfortable, so you can rest.

If you have a cough, an expectorant can help thin mucus, so you can cough it up. Lozenges, especially those with menthol, can also help quiet coughs and soothe sore throats.

Both colds and flus can cause increased mucus. Antihistamines and decongestants can help with a runny or congested nose. Finn cautions to check with your doctor before you use these medications, especially decongestants, as some of them can raise blood pressure or cause heart issues.

She says saline nose drops and sprays are safe and effective for all ages to help break up nasal congestion. Put several drops into one nostril and gently blow the mucus and saline out. Repeat on the other side.

Eat well

“In addition to hydrating, be sure to eat nourishing foods, including fruits, vegetables and whole grains,” says Finn.

When to call the doctor

It’s time to call your primary care doctor if:

— Your symptoms get worse or won’t go away.

— You have a high fever — 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher for an infant, or 102 degrees or higher in children or adults — or if your fever lasts for more than three days.

— You are vomiting, wheezing or have periods with shortness of breath or chest discomfort.

— You develop a painful earache or have drainage from your ear.

— You have pain in your face or forehead with thick yellow or green mucus for more than a week.

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Should you consider a clinical trial if you have cancer?

image of head with question markClinical trials are research studies that people volunteer to join to evaluate new drugs, devices, or procedures.

Most of the standard treatments used to treat cancer today were tested and shown to be effective through clinical trials — and the successful therapies of tomorrow are in research today.

If you have cancer, you may be interested in participating.

Thirteen things to consider:

  • You have to qualify in order to join a particular clinical trial. Protocols explain exactly who can or cannot join each trial, sometimes determined by your age, gender, the type or stage of cancer you have, and the kinds of therapy you’ve undergone.
  • Before joining a trial, volunteers undergo testing to make sure they won’t be put at risk by the treatments in a study.
  • You do not have to participate in all phases of a clinical trial. Before a treatment becomes standard, it goes through three or four clinical trial phases. The early phases make sure the treatment is safe. Later phases show if it works better than standard treatment.
  • Depending on the trial, you may be randomly assigned to the “control group” of people who receive standard treatment or the “investigational group” of people who receive the treatment under study. Neither you nor your doctor get to choose which group you are in.
  • You can ask researchers how the trial could affect your daily life, how often you will have appointments and what will be involved. You can ask what your treatment choices are and how they compare with the treatment being studied.
  • You must give your informed consent before participating. That means you will learn the purpose, risks and benefits of a trial before deciding whether to join. Even after you join, you have the right to leave a clinical trial at any time.
  • Federal rules are meant to ensure clinical trials are run in an ethical manner, with oversight from scientific review panels, an institutional review board (IRB), data and safety monitoring boards and your research team.
  • If you’re in the “investigational group” and the new treatment is proven to work, you may be among the first to benefit. But you have to realize new treatments are not always better than, or even as good as, standard treatment — and they may have side effects that doctors don’t expect.
  • If you’re in the “control group,” you’ll have access to high-quality standard cancer care. It may not be as effective as the new treatment being studied. Or, it may prove more effective.
  • Investigational treatments and standard treatments that are proven effective may not be effective for you.
  • The National Cancer Institute, drug companies, medical institutions and other organizations sponsor clinical trials, but your health insurer or managed care provider will likely be billed for some patient care costs. Find out what will be paid for ahead of time.
  • Your participation gives you the chance to help others and improve cancer treatment.
  • Researchers at Upstate have many clinical trials that are focused on various types of cancer, including, but not limited to, breast, lung, colon, prostate and ovarian. Access is also available to national prevention and disease treatment trials through the Upstate Cancer Center’s association with cancer networks throughout the country. Learn more at under the “research” tab.

Cover of spring 2020 issue of Cancer Care magazineThis article is from the spring 2020 issue of Cancer Care magazine.

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Staying hydrated is important in sickness and in health

woman drinking water

Whether sick or healthy, the body needs water to function properly.


Your body relies on water to work properly, and it’s your responsibility to make sure it has the hydration it needs to work its best.

Up to 60% of your body is water. Your skin, organs, muscles and even your bones have water in them. Water regulates your internal body temperature, dissolves and transports nutrients in the bloodstream, assists in flushing out waste and lubricates your joints.

How much water you need in a day is determined by your activity level, the weather and your physiology. You might be at higher risk of dehydration if you exercise at a high intensity, have medical conditions (such as kidney stones or diabetes), are sick with a fever or diarrhea, are pregnant or are breastfeeding.

You may be dehydrated if you are thirsty, have a dry mouth, feel sleepy or are light-headed.

“The best way to tell if you are well hydrated is by checking your urine. It should be colorless or light yellow. If your urine is dark yellow or amber, up your fluids. If it persists more than a few days even with increased fluids, call your primary care physician,” says Susan Levinsohn, MD, of Upstate Family Medicine and Preventative Care.

Another indicator of dehydration can be a mild headache. “Before you reach for the pain reliever, drink a large glass of water and wait 20 minutes,” Levinsohn says.

Dehydration is most threatening to the young, the elderly and the sick. These are the groups of people who may not be in tune with whether they are getting enough fluids.

“Living in Upstate New York, we’re lucky to have, for the most part, excellent tap water. You can be a good steward of the environment and leave the bottled water on the store shelves and out of the landfills,” Levinsohn said. If your tap water isn’t to your liking, you can try using a filtration pitcher to improve the taste and odor of your water.

Invest in a good-quality refillable water bottle made of BPA-free plastic, glass or stainless steel. Carrying it with you throughout the day makes it even easier to get in enough water. You can also experiment with making your water more flavorful by adding fresh fruit, cucumbers or herbs to a large pitcher and letting it steep overnight.

“Water is the best source of hydration for the human body, but remember hydration can come from many places including other types of beverages, fruits, vegetables and even soup,” Levinsohn says.

While you can hydrate with many beverages, pay attention to added artificial colors, sweeteners, salt, caffeine and fat in packaged drinks. Some drinks can be filled with empty calories that can throw off your daily nutrition balance.

“Sugary sports drinks are not necessary to hydrate, even if you aren’t well,” Levinsohn says. Artificial sweeteners can also make you crave more sweets, which isn’t necessarily good for your health.

Bottom line: Staying hydrated is part of staying healthy — and adding more water to your daily routine is an easy way to achieve that.

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A quick guide to masks for COVID-19



The novel coronavirus, which causes the disease known as COVID-19, is transmitted by very small particles,  called droplets or aerosols, that can hang in the air. From a cough or a sneeze, these particles can travel up to six feet between people, possibly more, and a recent study found this virus can live in the air for up to three hours. Masks, when properly fitted, can collect these particles and prevent them from being transmitted to others.

If you have symptoms of illness, you can wear a mask to protect others from your germs. Considering the spread of coronavirus, this is encouraged even among well people, as people can transmit this disease even without symptoms, or prior to developing symptoms.

However, a mask is not a silver bullet in stopping the transmission of disease. “The best ways to protect yourself from any disease transmission is to wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water, use hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available and do not touch your face,” said Paul Suits, director of infection control at Upstate Medical University. Additionally, “take extra care to disinfect high-touch surfaces in your home and car as well as your cell phone to reduce transmission of disease,” Suits said.

Wearing a mask is not a substitute for these good hygiene practices and social distancing.

Masks are now required in most public places throughout our region.

In some cases of widespread disease, like COVID-19, officials will request or require people to wear a mask when in public as an added precaution to be used in conjunction with good hygiene and social distancing.

There are different kinds of masks:

A surgical mask is standard in hospital operating rooms. It is a flat rectangle made of thin, paperlike material, for one-time use only. This mask fits loosely around your nose, mouth and chin. It is intended to be worn by a health care professional to catch the bacteria from the wearer’s mouth and nose and to protect against contact with any splashes, sprays or splatters. Surgical masks are not designed to protect the wearer from inhaling airborne bacteria or virus particles.

N95 and N99 masks are intended for health care and other professionals exposed to airborne particles. These masks are made of a firm, clothlike filter material certified to block 95% or 99% of all particles and are designed to seal tightly around the mouth and nose. More substantial than a surgical mask, the rounded respirator is shaped like a small bowl to seal to your face, and the filtering action removes tiny particles from the air when you breathe in. “We need to preserve the supply of surgical and N95 masks for our frontline health care workers,” Suits said. Homemade cloth masks do not create more competition for surgical or N95 masks, which are currently in high demand by health care providers.

Homemade cloth masks, bandannas, scarves and other fabric-based coverings are more effective at keeping your germs from others, than from protecting you from others’ germs. “These are not medical-grade protective equipment,” said Suits. But some research indicates a snug-fitting cloth mask could be more effective than covering a cough with your elbow or hand. Additionally, it would keep your germs in your mask until you choose to touch it.

Cloth masks are more effective with thicker fabric and a snug fit to the face covering the nose and mouth. It’s important to wear your mask for the duration of your public outing and to resist the urge to remove or adjust the mask with unsanitized hands. Cloth masks are not appropriate for use in health care settings, as they do not have the same filter efficiency as surgical or N95 masks. If you are employed by, or are a patient or visitor at, any Upstate facility, please leave your homemade mask at home or in the car before entering. “These masks do not offer the same protection as the masks that will be given to you, and your homemade masks may be bringing more germs into a health care facility,” said Suits.

Good mask hygiene

— Wash your hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol before putting on the mask.

— Cover your nose and mouth with the mask and make sure no gaps exist between it and your face.

— Avoid touching the mask while using it. Touching the front of your mask, which is exposed to the environment, can defeat the purpose of using it.

— If you do touch your mask, wash or sanitize your hands immediately. Touching the mask could expose you to possible virus on its outer surface.

— If you wear glasses, you may find them fogging up even with a snug-fitting mask. Try washing your glasses with soapy water and shake off the excess. Let them air dry or gently dry off the lenses with a soft cloth before putting them back on. The soap should help cut the fog when wearing your mask.

— Mask or no mask, avoid touching your mouth, nose and eyes. Practice physical distancing to avoid contact with anyone who might be ill or become ill. Because the coronavirus can exist on surfaces, clean and disinfect surfaces daily, including your cell phone.

— If you are feeling unwell, contact your primary care physician and stay home.

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Science Is Art Is Science: Shining a light on cancer

The background photo shows Joseph Jacob, MD, demonstrating Blue Light Cystoscopy. The insets show cancer cells. (Background photo by Susan Kahn. Inset photos courtesy of Joseph Jacob, MD)Jacob, MD.)

The background photo shows Joseph Jacob, MD, demonstrating Blue Light Cystoscopy. The insets show cancer cells made more visible by the process. (Background photo by Susan Kahn. Inset photos courtesy of Joseph Jacob, MD)Jacob, MD.)

Urologists at Upstate now offer Blue Light Cystoscopy, a technology that significantly improves the detection of bladder cancers.

An hour before the procedure, patients receive about 2 ounces of Cysview imaging solution through a catheter. Cancer cells absorb the solution.

Urologist Joseph Jacob, MD, describes how he examines the interior of the bladder during the cystoscopy. Then he turns on the blue light. Any subtle cancer cells are suddenly revealed as bright pink targets (inset photos).

“It picks up these cancers we weren’t picking up before.”

To learn more about Blue Light Cystoscopy and bladder cancer treatment, contact Upstate Urology at 315-464-1500.

Upstate Health magazine winter 2020 issue coverThis article is from the winter 2020 issue of Upstate Health magazine.

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In older patients, early skin biopsy may be warranted

Sharon Brangman, MD

Sharon Brangman, MD

Kerry Whiting, MD

Kerry Whiting, MD

Amit Dhamoon, MD, PhD

Amit Dhamoon, MD, PhD


Angiosarcoma is a cancer that spreads easily from the cells where it originates, in the lining of the blood vessels and lymphatic channels. When it appears in the skin, it’s called cutaneous angiosarcoma; it’s rare, but deadly, with a 10-year survival rate as low as 14 percent.

“Early detection is essential to the treatment,” a team of Upstate doctors writes with colleagues from The Netherlands in the journal Case Reports in Dermatological Medicine.

Cutaneous angiosarcoma often appears on the scalp, the face or neck – and it can be mistaken for other skin problems.When a woman in her 90s noticed itchy red patches on her scalp, she assumed she had been burned from a salon hair dryer. Her doctor thought she had eczema, or a skin infection or an accumulation of blood beneath the skin. The woman tried hydrocortisone, moisturizers and antibiotics, but her symptoms did not improve. Instead, the affected area grew. After four months, the area started to bleed.

The woman’s doctor referred her to Upstate University Hospital. A biopsy revealed the cancer. A computerized tomography scan showed that it was spreading.

“She was not interested in pursuing surgery or chemotherapy but agreed to consider radiation therapy to control the bleeding and be comfortable enough to wear a wig,” write the doctors, including geriatrician Sharon Brangman, MD; pathologist Kerry Whiting, MD; and internist Amit Dhamoon, MD, PhD.

An earlier diagnosis would have allowed her more options. The woman died at home a few weeks later.

Lesson: Older people need regular skin exams.

Especially in older patients, “any skin problem that doesn’t resolve should be referred to a dermatologist,” says Brangman, who is chief of geriatrics at Upstate.

What does it look like?

Angiosarcoma can spread to the skin, often in the scalp, face or neck. Then it is called a cutaneous angiosarcoma and may have these features:

•Raised and purplish, like a bruise.

•Resembles rosacea, eczema or a burn.

•Grows larger over time.

•Bleeds when scratched or bumped.

•Swelling of surrounding skin.

Upstate Health magazine winter 2020 issue coverThis article is from the winter 2020 issue of Upstate Health magazine.

Posted in aging/geriatrics, cancer, dermatology/skin care, health care, pathology | Comments Off on In older patients, early skin biopsy may be warranted