Thursday, September 30, 2010
Psychosomatic illnesses are real

By Dr. Anthony Policastro

People often throw big words around and sometimes they understand what they mean. One medical word that is frequently used is hypochondriac. Another is psychosomatic. When people use these words, they will often add, "it is all in your head," which is not exactly true. A hypochondriac might exaggerate the degree of his/her symptoms. Psychosomatic illnesses might not have a physical cause. However, one thing is usually true in both cases. The symptoms are real. The pain and symptoms are usually present but they might not be caused by a physical disease process. However, there is usually a good reason for the individual complaining. There is an example that I often use when discussing these things with patients. I will ask them how they feel when they have to get up in front of an audience and give a talk. They might get flushed and have sweaty palms. Their heart may race and their blood pressure might go up. They might have butterflies in their stomach. Every one of those symptoms is real. They are actual physical findings. However, there is no physical illness associated with them. Another example is when we have an accident with our car. Our body releases epinephrine (adrenaline). When that happens, our heart rate speeds up and we have a variety of nerve and gastrointestinal related symptoms. We know that ulcers are frequently associated with stress. When an ulcer occurs, the hole in the intestinal lining is real. A common approach to patients with these kind of emotional related disorders is to tell them to get over it but it is not always that easy. Telling someone to not get nervous before getting up in front of a group is not going to work. Telling someone with a phobia to just face it is not the right approach. Telling the person with an ulcer that they need to be less stressed is not likely to be successful. Even though these symptoms might be caused by a non-physical reason, once they occur the physical changes are real. Therefore, we need to respect that. Just calling someone a hypochondriac or telling them their symptoms are psychosomatic will not solve the problem. The approach is more complex than that. Belittling their symptoms will not make the pain go away.

Alzheimer's Support Group Nanticoke Memorial Hospital's next Alzheimer's Support Group meeting is on Tuesday, Oct. 12, at 1 p.m., at LifeCare at Lofland Park's, first floor resident lounge, 715 E. King St., Seaford. This group provides support and information about Alzheimer's and dementia to families, caregivers and anyone who is affected by this disease. Refreshments will be provided. Pre-registration is not required for this free support group. For more information, contact LifeCare at Lofland Park at 628-3000, ext. 8302.

Dr. Bhardwaj joins NMH staff Nanticoke Memorial Hospital welcomes Anju Bhardwaj, MD to its active medical staff as a hospitalist, a physician who specializes in the care of patients while they are in the hospital. Dr. Bhardwaj completed her internal medicine residency at St. Joseph's Regional Medical Centerin Paterson, N.J., which is an affiliate of Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. She completed a researchfellowship in general cardiology at Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School in Boston. She continues to conduct cardiology research and has also published several studies on cardiovascular diseases.

First Aid classes Nanticoke Memorial Hospital will offer community First Aid classes to anyone interested in learning first aid on Tuesday, Oct. 12, from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m., at the Nanticoke Training Center, Water Street, Seaford. Participants will learn basic first aid that will enable them to administer help during the first few moments until emergency responders arrive. Classes are open to participants age 13 and up. The course covers cognitive learning, role-playing and skill practice. Cost is $30. Payment and registration is required by no later than five business days prior to the class. Late registrations (if seating is available) will be an additional $5 fee. To register, or for information, contact Nanticoke Memorial Hospital's Training Center office at 629-6611, ext. 8919.Pre-registration is required.

Look Good...Feel Better program Women undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatment for cancer can now receive free professional help to cosmetically disguise the appearance-related side effects of their treatments. Look Good...Feel Better, a program developed by the Cosmetic, Toiletry, and Fragrance Association Foundation, the American Cancer Society, and the National Cosmetology Association, trains volunteer cosmetologists to help women with cancer, conceal loss of hair, skin problems and other side effects that can result from cancer therapy. The next program will be hosted by the Cancer Care Center at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital on Monday, Oct. 11, from 5 to 7 p.m., at the Cancer Care Center's second floor conference room.The program is free to all patients in active cancer treatment. Registration is required and space is limited. To register, contact Nanticoke Memorial Hospital's Cancer Care Center at 629-6611, ext. 2378 or 2588.

Strides Against Breast Cancer walk The inaugural Sussex County Making Strides Against Breast Cancer event will take place on Sunday, Oct. 3, at the Owens Campus of Delaware Tech Community College, Georgetown. It will be a 5K (3.1 miles) walk, and will also include a 5K run component, which is competitive. Individuals of all ages are welcome to participate. Registration opens at 7 a.m.; race begins at 8:30 a.m.; and the walk begins at 9 a.m. The registration fee for runners is $20 (if pre-registered by Sept. 27) or $25 (if registering after Sept. 27). This is your opportunity to honor breast cancer survivors, remember people we have lost, and raise funds and awareness to help eliminate breast cancer as a life-threatening disease. For more information or to become involved in Making Strides Against Breast Cancer in Sussex County, visit, call 1-800-937-9696, or email

Mobile screening van returns After being off the road for 17 months, the Delaware Women's Mobile Health Screening Van, which provides screening mammograms for women throughout Delaware, is back on the road with new digital equipment. The van was recently retrofitted with new digital Hologic Selenia mammography equipment. Women's Mobile Health Screening (WMHS) provides programs to reach out to underserved women who otherwise may not have access to mammography services.

In the last full year the van was on the road, it screened 1,261 women in Delaware. WMHS also works with the State's Screening for Life program, community organizations and health care providers to schedule mobile screenings for groups of qualified women and offers reduced/no cost mammograms for eligible low-income or uninsured women. To have a screening mammogram on the WMHS Van, women need to obtain a prescription from their doctor, call the WMHS office to make an appointment, and discuss how to obtain a copy of their previous mammogram films for comparison. For more information about the Women's Mobile Health Screening Van or to make an appointment for a screening mammogram, call 1-888-672-9647.

Pink Ribbon Tea at Nanticoke On Friday, Oct. 15, at 2:30 p.m., breast cancer survivors are invited to attend an afternoon of fellowship and celebration being put on by the Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition, the Wellness Community, the American Cancer Society, and Nanticoke Health Services. If you are a breast cancer survivor and wonder how to continue your journey toward wellness, we invite you to attend this special pink ribbon event.A cancer survivor from each group hosting the event will speak briefly about their organization. Light refreshments will be served. Seating is limited, so RSVP by Oct. 8. During October, Nanticoke Memorial Hospital Campus and Mears Health Campus will be "turning Sussex County pink." Several activities are planned to promote cancer awareness including a vigil walk scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 5, at 7:30 p.m.This walk is open to the community and begins at Nanticoke's Cancer Care Center and ends at Gateway Park in Seaford. Featured speaker for this event is Mrs. Markell, First Lady of Delaware and breast cancer survivor. To register for the tea and for more information, call 629-6611, ext. 2378.

NHS Tribute awards Nanticoke Health Services has announced the recipients of the 6th Annual Nanticoke Tributes for Healthcare Leadership. Nanticoke Tributes awards individuals who have made significant contributions to the provision and improvement of health care in the communities of Western Sussex County. The awards will be presented at a dinner and reception on Thursday, Oct. 28, from 6 to 9 p.m., at Heritage Shores in Bridgeville. The Founders Award will recognize two new inductees, Sister Rosita Alvarez and the Soroptimist International of Seaford.The Charles C. Allen, Jr. Philanthropy Award is being presented to Rex L. Mears who is being recognized for his dedication and commitment to Nanticoke Health Services. The Nanticoke Tribute Awards also recognizes a new inductee into the Nanticoke Physicians Hall of Fame. This year, Louis F. Owen, Jr., MD will be presented with the Hall of Fame Award. Tickets are $100 and may be purchased by calling Nanticoke Health Services Foundation at 629-6611, ext. 8944 or

NMH offers CPR classes Nanticoke Memorial Hospital will offer community CPR classes to anyone interested in learning CPR at the Nanticoke Training Center located on Water Street in Seaford. Participants will learn how to perform basic CPR on adults, children, and infants and how to help an adult, child, or infant who is choking. This classroom-based, video, and instructor-led CPR course offers families, friendsand community members the opportunity to learn CPR and need a course completion card. Classes are open to participants 12-years-old and up. This program is specifically designed for those who prefer to learn in a group environment with feedback from an instructor. The target audience is those who have a duty to respond to a cardiac emergency because of job responsibilities or regulatory requirements. Cost is $30. Payment and registration is required by no later than five business days prior to the class. Late registrations (if seating is available) will be an additional $5 fee. To register, or for more information, contact the Nanticoke Memorial Hospital's Training Center office at 629-6611, ext. 8919. Pre-registration is required.

Cancer Support Group The Wellness Community-Delaware offers a general cancer support group for people affected by cancer and their loved ones held at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital in Seaford. The monthly support group meets in the second floor conference room of the Cancer Care center on the third Monday of each month from 4:30 to 6 p.m. The next meeting takes place on Oct. 18 at 4:30 p.m. The Wellness Community, an affiliate of the Cancer Support community, is dedicated to helping people affected by cancer enhance their health and well-being through participation in a professional program of emotional support and hope. Facilitators are trained mental health professionals with a master's degree or more. Call 645-9150 for information or to register for this program. All support groups offered at the Wellness Community are free of charge. This program is made possible by the support of Nanticoke Memorial Hospital in Seaford.

Breast cancer support group Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition, Inc. (DBCC) has expanded its Beginning Your Pink Ribbon Journey, a program for women newly-diagnosed with breast cancer, by partnering with Nanticoke Memorial Hospital Cancer Center in Seaford. The free, monthly program is offered at the Cancer Center located at 801 Middleford Road, Seaford, the third Thursday of each month from 3 to 4 p.m. The program is facilitated by Nanticoke Memorial Hospital Cancer Center professional staff - Terri A. Clifton, MS, NCC, Cancer Care coordinator; Mary Brown, RN, DSN, manager Cancer Care Center; and Wendy Polk, nutritionist - with assistance from Lois Wilkinson, DBCC special projects manager, who helps facilitate the program at Bayhealth. Of particular value to newly-diagnosed women is DBCC's Peer Mentor Program through which they are paired with a long-term survivor for one-on-one support. To learn more about Beginning Your Pink Ribbon Journey at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital Cancer Center, call Lois Wilkinson at 672-6435. Registration is required and light refreshments and small gifts are provided.

Delaware Hospice support group Delaware Hospice's Bereavement Counselor, Paul Ganster, LCSW, will lead an eight-week grief support group on "Grieving the Loss of a Loved One," on Thursdays, from Oct. 14 through Dec. 9, from 5 to 6:30 p.m., at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital in Seaford. There is no fee for this service which is provided as a community outreach by Delaware Hospice. To register, call Paul Ganster, LCSW, at 357-7147, or send him an email at