Posts tagged ‘colorectal cancer’

When you see your doc, be sure to bring up family history of disease

9. pathophysiology-of-colon-cancer

9. pathophysiology-of-colon-cancer (Photo credit: TipsTimes)

When you see your doctor, it’s hard enough to figure out what questions to ask.  Should I get screened for this, or screened for that? I have emphasized throughout this blog the importance of getting screened for prostate cancer. Guys simply don’t like to visit the doctor. But colorectal health is also vital.  With proper and timely  screening, many men and women can avoid colon cancer.  But it takes a candid conversation with the doctor to set up a colonoscopy.

According to this HealthDay.com article, a new study suggests that a family history of the disease may be important for even more distant relatives.

In many cases, colon cancer may have no symptoms. And when symptoms appear, the disease could be advanced, so it’s important to talk with your doctor as you approach age 50….much younger if you have a family history of the disease.  This article tells me that it’s important to tell your doctor if any relative (even distant) may have had colon cancer.  Just one more thing to remember when you set up your next doctor appointment.

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Hey you boomer guys, Here are the top ten health threats for men

It’s about that time to refresh our baby boomer minds when it comes to recognizing diseases and health threats that can shorten our lives. The purpose here isn’t to scare the living daylights out of my blog readers, or panic men into rushing to Google to check health symptoms (believe me, I’ve rushed to Google more than a few times over the course of my life). I just want boomers (and men of all ages) to review a great piece on Webmd.com.

This article talks about heart attacks vs. cardiac arrest, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, strokes, diabetes, lung cancer, colorectal cancer, prostate disease, testicular disease and depression.

This article links to more in-depth articles. All of this is valuable information for men of all ages. You’ll learn that high cholesterol can start early in life; it doesn’t just afflict older boomers. Strokes are the fourth leading cause of death in men. Depression often goes untreated. And colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in men.

Again, schedule regular doctor appointments, do a bit of research on your own and bring up these topics with your general practitioner. Based on your health and family history, your doctor will let you know when you should be screened.

Colon cancer screening: An option you might not have considered

Stomach colon rectum diagram.

Image via Wikipedia

Throughout my blog, I’ve hammered home the importance of colorectal cancer screening. Doctors still look at the colonoscopy as the “gold standard” treatment option. But some men and women opt for the flexible “sig,” or sigmoidoscopy.  The “sig” examines a smaller portion of the colon.  Still others choose the virtual colonoscopy; there’s emerging research on this more recent screening choice.

A recent article at Reuters Health examines another option: The fecal occult blood test, or FOBT.  Amy Norton writes that a study reveals that a FOBT is an effective choice for the early detection of colon cancer.

The study in the Canadian Medical Association Journal shows a newer (FOBT) test, the immunochemical FOBT (iFOBT), has a better chance of finding colon growths. The older FOBT version, at times, would discover bleeding in the upper digestive tract.

The FOBT is designed to look for hidden blood (that can come from polyps or cancer). The price of these tests is low (under $50) compared with more expensive colonoscopies and flexible sigs.

If blood is found on a FOBT test, a colonoscopy is needed.

As I have stressed repeatedly on this blog, you need to decide on a screening regimen after close consultation with your family doctor.

Is the flexible sig a good choice for baby boomers?

The flexible sig is a funny sounding medical term. It’s actually short for flexible sigmoidoscopy. It may sound goofy, but it’s one of the tools that can identify colorectal cancer. In a way, this is a complex subject to write about. As I search through health articles to prep for this blog, I am constantly reminded that colonoscopies are the “gold standard” in finding potentially cancerous polyps or full-blown colorectal cancers.

Now comes research that indicates that a flexible sig for boomers between 55 and 64 years of age could reduce the chance of getting colon cancer. The key point to remember is that a flexible sig only probes the lower colon and rectum, a region where two thirds of cancers occur. The more involved colonoscopy explores the entire colon.

I have heard that flexible sigmoidoscopies are not as common these days. And you can add to the mix  the “virtual” colonoscopy. Some people choose this method, which relies more on computer images. I’m not a doctor, but my vote goes to the colonoscopy. That’s the option I chose shortly after turning 50.

The decision is yours. Poke around my blog and learn more about colorectal cancer. Do further research, and make sure you have a have a chat with your doctor.

Harry Smith’s televised colonoscopy

For most of us who get a colonoscopy, there’s a tiny audience. The doctor who performs the procedure and a few of his or her assistants. For CBS morning host Harry Smith, there was a nation-wide audience. Recently, the star of  “The Early Show” had the procedure, where a snake-like tube is inserted into the colon in an effort to catch a colorectal cancer before it becomes life-threatening.

The Los Angeles Times has a great piece  that includes a video of Smith’s procedure. If you’re a bit sqeamish, you may want to turn away when they show the interior of the colon. If you’re brave, you’ll see how amazing the technology is. This video is a must-see for baby boomers of both ages. You’ll hear about colorectal cancer statistics. This is one cancer that can really be nipped in the bud. But screening is essential. The idea is to catch a polyp before it has a chance to become cancerous.

Comforting Smith in the procedure is CBS anchor Katie Couric, who lost her husband to the disease several years ago. This blog has discussed colorectal cancer several times, but the video you’ll see is of vital importance. I hope the video inspires more people to get screened.

Innocent polyps can lead to dangerous cancer — article by Scott Keith

It’s a detail a baby boomer must not overlook. As you approach middle age, it’s time to have a frank discussion with your primary care physician about colorectal cancer.

It’s a tricky cancer; in the early stages you may be symptom free. You could be feeling as strong as a horse, but inside your large intestine, little growths, called polyps, could be making the dangerous transition from benign to malignant.

To date, the best tool doctors have in diagnosing this disease is the colonoscopy. The very word strikes fear in the toughest men. Men and women will postpone the procedure because they don’t like the idea of a flexible tube running through their lower pipes. But screening is vital. Dr. David Lieberman, chief of the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, Oregon, says the exciting thing about colon cancer screening “is that, unlike other forms of screening where the goal is to detect early forms of cancer, with colon cancer we can actually prevent it because there is this pre-cancer phase of polyps.”

People of average risk should begin screening at age 50. “However, for individuals who have a close relative, a father, mother, sister or brother with colon cancer, they need to talk to their doctors earlier about colon cancer screening. Many of those patients need to begin screening at age 40,” says Lieberman. It’s good to get screened before you have any symptoms because “we know from various studies that if we wait for symptoms, often the cancers are discovered at a later stage and they’re much more difficult to treat.” Symptoms can include rectal bleeding (bleeding in stools), and changes in bowel habits.

While the colonoscopy is considered the “gold standard,” there are a couple of other screening tools. Lieberman says the fecal occult blood test “is a reasonably good test for detecting cancer, but it’s not going to detect pre-cancerous polyps.” The blood test has to be repeated every year. The sigmoidoscopy, like the colonoscopy, can detect polyps and cancers. The sigmoidoscopy can be performed in an office setting without sedation. “The problem with the sigmoidoscopy is that you’re only looking at the lower part of the colon, so if you happen to have growths further up in the colon, they can be missed.” Lieberman says use of the sigmoidoscopy has dropped off in the United States. For those with a family history of colon cancer, the colonoscopy is the recommended test.

During a colonoscopy, Lieberman says “we use a long, flexible tube with a light on the end of it and a little camera in it that we pass through the entire colon.” If you’re worried about pain or discomfort, Lieberman adds, “When we perform these procedures in the United States, everybody receives sedation. Most patients don’t remember the procedure. What they do remember is the day before the procedure…getting ready.”

The day before the colonoscopy is a day you’ll probably remember for years to come. You’ll be limited to a diet of clear liquids. You’ll also be given a solution that will cause you to visit the bathroom MANY times the evening before. The idea is to clean the colon so your doctor can easily spot and remove polyps. The important thing to remember is to follow your doctor’s prep list to the letter.

If you’re polyp-free after a colonoscopy, Lieberman says you won’t need to repeat the procedure for about ten years. If a benign polyp is found, a repeat colonoscopy is needed sooner, depending on the appearance and size of the polyp.

Does lifestyle have anything to do with developing colon cancer? Lieberman says, “There are lots of studies, and I’ve done some of them, which show that there are some risk factors that seem to be associated with a higher risk of developing colon cancer.” These include diets high in animal fat and low in fiber, diets low in calcium, obesity, smoking and low levels of physical activity. Lieberman cautions that if you start eating healthier food, including fruits, vegetables and whole grain bread, you still need to get screened.

Patients should be encouraged to get screened. Lieberman says he gives a lot of lectures to fellow doctors. “One of the things we emphasize is that it’s important to have this discussion with patients because this is one of the most preventable forms of cancer that we know of, because we can detect these polyps and take them out before there is cancer.” That, says Lieberman, is an exciting opportunity.