Thursday, April 10, 2014
The constant battle against our illnesses

By Dr. Anthony Policastro

Sometimes it is useful to take a look back because it makes us appreciate how far we have come. Medicine has certainly advanced in the last 100 years or so. Currently, cancer and heart disease are the leading causes of death. They each cause about one-third of the deaths in our country. The rest of the causes make up the other third. They include COPD (emphysema) at number three and stroke at number 4. The rest of the top 10 include accidents, Alzheimers Disease, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, pneumonia and suicide. Things were a lot different in 1900. First, people did not live as long so many of the causes of death affected younger people. Second, it was before the age of antibiotics. That made death from infection more common because we could not treat infections. Third, it was before the days of immunizations. For that reason, there were illnesses that were fatal that we do not even hear about any more. The number one cause of death in 1900 was pneumonia. We did not have antibiotics so it was more often fatal. There were about four times as many deaths from pneumonia then as there are today. The second most common cause of death in 1900 was tuberculosis. The antibiotics used to treat this are different than what we use for most other infections. They took longer to develop. Third on the list was intestinal infections. We are now able to better treat dehydration that comes from these infections which is why they seldom cause problems in todays world. Most of the time they are just an annoyance such as when there is an epidemic of illness on a cruise ship. The next five causes in 1900 are still in the top 10 today. They are heart disease, stroke, chronic kidney disease, accidents and cancer. Number nine on the list is old age. Some of these individuals had illnesses that we would have diagnosed today. However, diagnostic techniques were not that good in 1900. For that reason, old age often appeared on death certificates. Number 10 on the list in 1900 is diphtheria. This is one of the diseases that immunizations has decreased significantly. For childhood deaths, whooping cough and measles were also significant issues. Unfortunately, some of these diseases are making a comeback because some parents are afraid of immunizations. One of the questions is where do we go from here? In the year 2100, will people look at heart disease and cancer as things of the past? While that might be the case, you can bet that something else will take their place. We fight a never-ending battle against illness and disease.

If you have comments about this column or suggestions for other topics, send an email to Dr. Anthony Policastro at

Heart & Sole 5K at Trinity The 4th annual Heart & Sole 5K will be held on Saturday, April 19, with all proceeds benefitting the American Heart Association and Nanticoke Health Services in Seaford. The event will take place at Trinity Logistics in Seaford, beginning with registration at 9 a.m. The course for the race, which starts at 10, will loop around the area surrounding the Trinity Logistics office. The 5K is hosted by the Trinity Foundation, a local nonprofit organization founded in 2005 by Trinity Logistics. Participants can walk or run. The registration fee is $20 for those who register before April 12, and $25 after that date. Local businesses are needed to sponsor the event. Sponsorship is available at gold, silver and bronze levels, and interested sponsors can contact Jill Ostermann at To register or sponsor the event, call 253-3900 and ask for Jill or Greg. More information about the race can be found on Trinitys Facebook page, located at

Safe Sitter Class offered Nanticoke Memorial Hospital is offering a Safe Sitter class for girls and boys ages 11 to 13. A one-day course will be held on Wednesday, April 23 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Friday, April 25 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The Safe Sitter program teaches youngsters how to handle emergencies when caring for younger children. The cost of the one-day program is $35. Participants are to bring a bagged lunch, dress appropriately with a jacket or sweater, may not use cell phones during the class, and must bring their manners. All medical information will be taught by a certified professional. During the course, students get hands-on practice in basic life-saving techniques so they are prepared to act in a crisis. Instructors also provide tips to make sitters more confident caregivers. They teach safety and security precautions, such as what to do if a stranger comes to the door and when and how to call for help. They give information on child development and suggest age-appropriate activities. Participants will also learn about the business aspects of babysitting. To register or for more information, call Nanticoke Memorial Hospital at 629-6611, ext. 2540.

Hospice event raises $17,000 Family members in Delaware find help coping with a serious illness or the loss of a loved one through Delaware Hospices wide spectrum of programs, which are free to the public.

These community service efforts are made possible through the generosity of individuals and businesses such as those who supported the recent Beef and Brew fundraiser at Georgetown CHEER Center. Thanks to a great turnout of more than 200 and the wonderful gifts donated by local sponsors and businesses, we raised more than $17,000 this year to benefit our programs and services in the community, said organizer Peggy Dolby, associate director of development. To learn more about how you can support Delaware Hospice, the states only not-for-profit hospice provider, visit or call 800-838-9800.

HIV Consortium awards celebration Tickets are on sale for the Delaware HIV Consortiums 10th Annual WOW Awards Celebration, Friday, April 25, at the Clarion Hotel in New Castle. The celebration honors individuals and corporations for their excellence in community leadership, volunteerism and philanthropy in the field of HIV/AIDS. For ticket information, visit or call 654-5471.

Annual Girls Night Out fundraiser The Harrington Raceway & Casino will host Milfords 3rd Annual Girls Night Out fundraiser to benefit the Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition and the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Milford (CCGM) on Friday, May 2. There will be cash/carry vendors, desserts, drinks, entertainment/games, a raffle to win a weekend getaway, compliments of the Atlantic Sands Hotel, and a Mens Fashion Show and Auction. The model who raises the most money will earn the title, Milfords Marvelous Man 2014. Committee members include: Cheryl Doucette and Sue Ryan, Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition; LuAnne Holland, Delaware Hospice; Sylvia Henderson, Milford School District; Ruth Abbate, Delaware Electric Signal; Christine Rust, M&T Bank; Kim Baker, Delaware Broadcasting; Jo Schmeiser and Laurie Judd, CCGM and Debbie Jewell, event chair, Sussex County Federal Credit Union. To purchase a ticket for $20 and to show support of your favorite model, contact the CCGM at 422-3344.

Hannas Hope for a Cure The 1st Annual Hannas Hope for a Cure softball tournament to help FSMA (Families of Spinal Muscular Atrophy) will be held at Crossroads Community Church in Georgetown on Saturday, May 10. Help us reach our fundraising goal of $20,000 by donating gift certificates, merchandise or funding. Hanna, daughter of Gary and Ashley Warfield of Georgetown, was diagnosed in February with SMA, a rare genetic disease that is often fatal, destroying the muscles controlling voluntary movement. For more information, contact Gary or Ashley at 858-6843 or 519-1699 or email Cash donations may be made online at

Stroke and osteoporosis screenings Residents living in and around the Laurel community can be screened on Monday, May 12, at Centenary United Methodist Church, Laurel, to reduce their risk of having a stroke or bone fracture. This event is sponsored by Bayhealth Medical Center. Screenings identify potential cardiovascular conditions such as blocked arteries and irregular heart rhythm, abdominal aortic aneurysms and hardening of the arteries in the legs, which is a strong predictor of heart disease. A bone density screening to assess osteoporosis risk is also offered and is appropriate for both men and women. Packages start at $149. All five screenings take 60-90 minutes to complete. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 1-877-237-1287 or visit Pre-registration is required.

Holding Onto a Hopeful Heart The Cancer Support Community-DE will present, Holding Onto A Hopeful Heart, at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, April 29. Donna Strachan-Ledbetter, pastoral psychotherapist with the Brandywine Pastoral Institute, will discuss the nature of hope and share creative ways to live with more peace. The Cancer Support Community is located at 18947 John J. Williams Hwy., Suite 312, Rehoboth. All classes at the Cancer Support Community are offered to people affected by cancer and their loved ones free of charge. Call 645-9150 to register for this program.

Living with cancer workshop Cancer Support Community-DE will host a free workshop for people living with cancer and their loved ones entitled, Frankly Speaking About Cancer: Treatments & Side Effects. Designed to help people understand and manage the physical and psychological side effects of treatment, the two hour workshop will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. on Monday, April 28, at Cancer Support Community DEs Sussex Facility, 18947 John J. Williams Hwy., Suite 312, Rehoboth. Advance registration is preferred but walk-in attendees are welcome. To register, call 302-645-9150. A light dinner will be served.