Category Archives: Colonoscopy

Women’s Health Week: Colon cancer isn’t just for men

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From May 14 – 20, the Office on Women’s Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, works to raise awareness around and provide recommendations for women’s health.

The mission of this initiative is to “Provide national leadership and coordination to improve the health of women and girls through policy, education, and model programs.”

Although there are several issues that primarily affect women – cervical, ovarian and breast cancers, mammograms, osteoporosis – women also face risks with digestive issues. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Colon Cancer are just a few of the health concerns of which Women’s Health Week works to increase awareness.

And while the risk for colon cancer is slightly lower in women than in men, almost 5% of women will face a diagnosis this year alone. However, those risks have been decreasing steadily over the past several decades, due almost exclusively to advanced screening capabilities and treatment options.

But we’re not out of the woods just yet: Colon cancer is still the third leading cause of cancer deaths in women in the United States.

“The old message was that colon cancer was a man’s disease. We have to be careful not to regress in our message to women.” says Sidney J. Winawer, MD, of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, to MedPage Today.

So what can women do? Two words: Get screened.

Advancements in technology, research and treatment are only good if we actively opt to utilize them. Most medical professionals recommend that women start their regular colonoscopies at age 50. However, if you have a family history of the disease, or other potential factors such as obesity, smoking and certain ethnicities, your doctor may recommend an earlier start.

For more information on women’s health issues, and National Women’s Health Week in general, WomensHealth.gov. There, you’ll find out how you can get involved, and a comprehensive list of topics that affect women’s health, with information and additional resources for each.

Call to book your colonoscopy today. And remember, screening saves!

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Better colonoscopy prep in the works

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Colonoscopy is by far the best way to detect and prevent digestive issues such as colon cancer.

Oh, the colonoscopy. Although it’s the most effective way to detect and thereby prevent colon cancer and other digestive issues, some people are still reluctant to commit to the procedure. Ask just about anyone who’s endured the quick and painless process, and they’ll tell you that the prep is the most difficult part.

Reports the Chicago Tribune: “Data suggest that about 40 percent of the people who should get a colonoscopy don’t, mostly because of the prep,” says Douglas Rex, a distinguished professor of medicine at Indiana University School of Medicine.

A typical colonoscopy involves drinking lots and lots of not-so-tasty liquids followed by lots and lots of trips to the toilet. Nothing is going to change in the toilet department, but the liquids are getting a face lift.

Researchers are experimenting with flavored shakes and bars such as strawberry banana or coconut that have the same effect as the historically dreaded liquid.

“Those drinking the new products were twice as likely as those who used the standard prep solution to be satisfied and four times as likely to recommend it,” says the Tribune.

The products should be available to patients in about two years.

The entire goal of these new prep methods is to get more people to commit to a colonoscopy, as it’s undoubtedly the number one way to detect and prevent cancer, tumors, polyps and other intestinal abnormalities.

“The easier you make it for people, the more you can improve their adherence,” says Susan Czajkowski, chief of the health behaviors research branch of the National Cancer Institute.

“The perfect screen has no value if it isn’t used.”

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Colon cancer rates on the rise in young people

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Listen to your body and be honest with your doctor. Early screening can detect and prevent complications from colon cancer.

As we continue through Colon Cancer Awareness month, our goal is to increase the conversations people have about the disease. Knowing that screenings are by far the most effective way to detect colon cancer early can even work to prevent it altogether.

An unfortunate trend in the fight against colon cancer is a spike in the amount of young people diagnosed. Formerly considered a disease reserved for older men, this new uptick in folks under 40 is disturbing but also mostly unexplained.

“People born in 1990 have twice the risk of colon cancer and four times the risk of rectal cancer as people born in 1950 faced at the same age,” says CBS New York.

For people of an average risk, the standard age to begin screening for colon cancer is 50. The only problem with that guideline is that younger folks are getting missed, often until it’s too late.

While the medical community struggles to pinpoint the cause of the surge, many speculate that changes in lifestyle and diet are to blame.

“Prime suspects include obesity, inactivity and poor diets,” said researchers from the American Cancer Society.

In other words, the behaviors we know are bad for us, and cause health issues across the board, are the likely culprit in the uptick in colon cancer.

While the statistics are alarming, the overall rates of colon cancer in younger people is still low. But that doesn’t mean there’s no lesson in this – be your own health advocate. Listen to your body and work with your doctor to pinpoint when something is wrong.

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Three dangerous colonoscopy myths debunked

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A colonoscopy is your best chance at early detection and prevention of colon cancer and other digestive disorders.

Colonoscopy is the absolute gold standard when it comes to colon cancer prevention. There are a handful of alternatives, but none come close to the level of early detection that the procedure provides.

But there are a few myths out there that might make you think twice before scheduling your appointment. We’re here to debunk those myths, put you at ease, and encourage you to get screened.

Myth 1: 50 is the age for everyone

Most medical professionals will suggest that you have your first colonoscopy by the time you’re 50. However, if you have a family history, that age could be younger.

More people under 40 are being diagnosed with colon cancer. In fact, almost one in seven folks with the disease are under 50. And now, a new study is recommending earlier screenings for everyone by lowering the age to 40 or 45.

Your family history plays a huge role in your likelihood of suffering from colon cancer. If you have a family history, your doctor might recommend getting screened by 40 to increase the chances of early detection.

Myth 2: Symptoms are the only reason to have one

Colon cancer and other digestive complications can often be symptom-free. Or, your symptoms could be something you easily dismiss, such as bloating or fatigue. You should never leave your decision to have a colonoscopy up to your symptoms, but rather your age and family history.

Our very own Dr. Donat of the Center for Digestive Health encourages his patients not to wait until you’re having issues: “Don’t put it off until you have symptoms because it may be too late by then.”

Myth 3: The procedure is painful

It’s a common misconception that the procedure itself is painful. However, the doctor who performs your colonoscopy will work with the staff to ensure that you’re properly sedated and comfortable so you don’t have to worry about any discomfort.

If you’re still worried about potential pain, it can be helpful to keep in mind how important it is to get screened. Colon cancer is preventative when caught early, and a colonoscopy is by far the most effective way to catch it.

Dr. Donat reminds us: “Colonoscopies are easy, painless, and can save your life.”

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Talk it out: Colon cancer conversations you should have

Colorecatal_Cancer_Awareness_Month_Scrolly_MarchTalking about cancer is never easy. Especially if you come from a family who keeps their medical struggles private. But it’s so important to have conversations with relatives about the issues they face. You can learn a lot about the risks you might face simply by knowing what your genes are predisposed to.

“First-degree relatives – parents, siblings and children – of patients with colorectal cancer or polyps have a two- to three-fold increased risk of developing polyps and colon or rectal cancer,” says Craig Reickert, M.D., in Breaking taboo: Making colon cancer awareness a family affair.

It’s especially important to educate yourself about your family history, because oftentimes, colon cancer comes with no symptoms.

“We’re finding colorectal cancer in younger people under 40,” says Dr. Anezi Bakken, M.D. M.S. at Troy Gastroenterology. “And there are usually no symptoms,” Dr. Bakken adds.

By far the best way to screen for colon cancer is a colonoscopy. But, if you’re still facing resistance from your family about discussing their personal health, Dr. Reickert suggests putting it this way:

You change the oil in your car so you don’t have to replace the entire motor. Colonoscopy is just like that oil change; it’s preventative maintenance to extend your life and avoid invasive treatments down the line, including surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

The bottom line is that screening is the only way you can get out ahead of colon cancer to have a chance of getting it under control. Even though it’s not curable, it’s definitely controllable if found early enough and treated properly.

And, after talking to your family, it’s even more important to get screened – and screened early – if they’ve had any issues with colon cancer, Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis.

Dr. M. Emin Donat, M.D. F.R.C.P.C. at Troy Gastroenterology, puts it best: “A colonoscopy is easy, painless and can save your life.”

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More young people diagnosed with colon cancer

Colon cancer cases are increasing in folks under 50 years of age.

There have been an increasing number of cases of colon cancer in people under 50.

We often think of colon cancer as a disease only older people have to worry about. But lately, there have been reports of more people under 50 being diagnosed with colon cancer.

According to CBS News, one in seven people who have colon cancer are under 50. Most younger people who are diagnosed have a later stage cancer. But there’s good news: the rate of survival without recurrence is also higher in younger folks.

Conflicting views

The current recommendation for colon cancer screenings is to start at age 50. For people with a family history of the disease, it’s a whole decade earlier, at age 40.

A new study is recommending earlier screenings for everyone by lowering the age to 40 or 45 across the board. But many insurance plans don’t cover colonoscopies for people under the recommended age or those without a family history of the disease.

According to Record Searchlight, “Several surgeons who conducted the study said that shows the recommended age for screening needs to be younger than current guidelines.” But many in the medical community are waiting for more conclusive statistics before making that claim.

What you can do

As always, pay attention to your body. If something feels off, tell your doctor. Symptoms of colon cancer aren’t always obvious. They can be as simple as fatigue, bloating, nausea or constipation.

Dr. Suryakanth Gurudu, a gastroenterologist at Mayo Clinic, recommends a less invasive approach, such as a stool sample. “We still don’t have large population-based studies that show cost effectiveness by decreasing the age to 40 years,” says Dr. Gurudu.

The risk of developing colon cancer during your younger years is still low. But if you have a family history or suspicious symptoms, talk to your doctor about your options.

Never Too Young

The Never Too Young (N2Y) coalition works to raise awareness of colon cancer cases in young people. They recognize the problems you can face with your insurance company or other barriers to treatment.

“Too often we hear stories from folks in this group who are facing additional screening and diagnosis hurdles due to their age,” says N2Y.

Visit the Colon Cancer Alliance site for more information.

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Dress in Blue day to support Colon Cancer Awareness

The staff at Troy Gastro came together to support a cause that’s near and dear to our hearts: Colon Cancer Awareness. March 6, 2015 marked Dress in Blue day in support of colon cancer survivors, fighters, and those we’ve lost to the disease.

We believe that prevention is the most effective way to treat this prevalent cancer. “When you have colon cancer,” says Dr. Anezi Bakken MD MS, “it can cause no symptoms or signs initially.”

Here’s a look at some of our staff dressed in blue to support Colon Cancer Awareness 2015!

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Is there a new alternative to a colonoscopy?

The dreaded colonoscopy has always been viewed as the only way to screen for colon cancer. But the new screening option announced this year has caused quite a stir. Is it possible that colonoscopies are on their way out?

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A colonoscopy is a necessary procedure for early detection of colon cancer.

Dr. M. Emin Donat, MD FRCPC and member of the American College of Gastroenterology and the American Gastroenterology Association, talked us through what a colonoscopy is and how the new procedure compares.

How a colonoscopy works

“A colonoscopy is a procedure where your GI doctor looks in your large intestine with a flexible scope,” says Dr. Donat. “This is done to look for polyps or other diseases that affect the colon.”

Although it sounds a bit unpleasant, patients are sedated and the procedure is painless. For a lot of folks, the preparation is the worst part.

“The prep involves only drinking clear liquids and avoiding solid foods the day before the procedure,” says Dr. Donat. “Patients then drink a laxative solution to clear out the colon completely.”

So the grunt work is done the day before, where you should probably stay home and close to the bathroom.

Anyone with intestinal or bowel problems can undergo a colonoscopy, but “everyone should have a colonoscopy at age 50 to look for polyps,” says Dr. Donat.

How the new option works

With capsule endoscopy, you swallow a pill-shaped capsule with a tiny camera inside. The pill works its way through your digestive system, taking thousands of photos as it moves along.

Sounds like the perfect, less-invasive alternative to colonoscopies, right?

Well, there are a couple of road bumps to conquer before bidding farewell the colonoscopy. First, the success rate of colonoscopies in catching polyps and other abnormalities is tough to beat: 98%.

Second, “if the camera does pick up on something,” says the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “the patient must then come back anyway for a colonoscopy and biopsy to have the growth…removed.”

Additionally, your doctor can’t directly handle a where the camera goes or how long it spends in a problem area during a capsule endoscopy. But during a colonoscopy, if your doctor sees something suspicious, they can take extra time on and photos of that area.

Your best options

As always, you and your doctor can decide which route is best for you. For now, Dr. Donat still suggests that everyone 50 and older should have a colonoscopy. He reminds us that “colonoscopies are easy, painless and can save your life.”

And most importantly, “Don’t put it off until you have symptoms because it may be too late by then.”

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