Posts for category: blog
Procedure now recommended at 45
If you’ve seen the headlines lately, you’re probably aware that the American Cancer Society has updated its guidelines for colon cancer screenings. Whereas the organization previously recommended people at average risk begin screening at age 50, the new recommendation is that they start at age 45.
Why the change?
An increased number of younger individuals have been diagnosed with colorectal cancer in recent years. While we don’t yet know why this is, we do know that, as is the case with all cancers, “the sooner caught, the sooner fought.” Lowering the recommended age will increase the chance of detecting colorectal cancer sooner rather than later.
Am I high risk?
Average risk patients should start getting screened at age 45. This is not the case for high risk patients, who should get screened earlier and per their doctor’s recommendation.
According to the American Cancer Society, patients who are high risk include those with:
- A history of colorectal cancer or certain types of polyps
- Family members who have had colorectal cancer
- Inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease)
- A confirmed or suspected hereditary colorectal cancer syndrome, such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or Lynch syndrome (hereditary non-polyposis colon cancer or HNPCC)
- A history of getting radiation to the abdomen or pelvic area to treat a prior cancer
What about insurance?
Your insurance may or may not cover colorectal cancer screenings at age 45. It’s a good idea to contact your plan to review your coverage before scheduling.
5 signs it’s time to talk
We all get the occasional bout of heartburn once in a while, but when antacids aren’t enough and it’s happening more and more frequently, it might be time to talk to a doctor. These are some of the signs to watch out for when dealing with persistent heartburn, GERD, or acid reflux.
You’re losing sleep: Nothing is more frustrating than not sleeping well—unless it’s not sleeping well due to acid reflux. If you’ve tried propping yourself up on pillows and these other suggestions, but still aren’t finding relief, it’s time to make an appointment with your doctor.
Chronic cough: It might not be allergies or a lingering cold; your chronic cough may be caused by acid reflux, even if you don’t feel as if you’re experiencing a lot of heartburn. This is something that should be addressed with your doctor.
Nausea and vomiting: If you or a loved one is experiencing nausea and vomiting—and especially if vomiting includes blood or black matter, contact your primary care provider sooner rather than later. Learn more about the connection between nausea, vomiting, GERD, and acid reflex here.
Unexplained weight loss with your heartburn: As welcome as effortless weight loss is, it usually isn’t a sign of good health. If it’s accompanied by heartburn, your best bet is to see a doctor to make sure it isn’t a sign of something worse like esophageal cancer.
Over-the-counter medications aren’t working: If you’ve taken antacids for more than two weeks and it’s not working, this is a warning from your body that something might be wrong. It may be more serious than acid reflux, such as GERD or even Barrett’s esophagus, which you can learn more about here.
Know your options
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Getting screened is essential to the detection and prevention of colon cancer.
Choosing what’s best for you.
Colonoscopy is the most common and effective colorectal cancer screening option because it is the only test that both detects and prevents colorectal cancer.
During a colonoscopy, your doctor examines the lining along the entire length of your large intestine. If your doctor sees abnormal growths of tissue called polyps, tiny instruments are inserted through the colonoscope to remove them. The tissue samples are sent to a pathologist to evaluate whether they are benign, precancerous or malignant. Screening colonoscopy is recommended every 10 years between 50 and 75 years of age. It may be more frequently based on your findings and risk factors.
- Patients with average to high risk of colon cancer
- Preventing colon cancer
Stool DNA test
Another option you can discuss with your doctor is a stool DNA test such as Cologuard.
The stool DNA test looks for abnormal DNA associated with colon cancer or colon polyps and detects hidden blood in the stool, which can indicate the presence of cancer. If a stool DNA test is positive a colonoscopy is usually recommended. The stool DNA test is recommended for average risk patients with no symptoms and is usually recommended every 3-5 years.
- Patients at average risk with no symptoms, conditions, personal or family history of colon cancer
- Patients who cannot tolerate colonoscopy prep or procedure
Not recommended for:
- Patients at higher risk with a personal history of colon polyps or cancer
- Patients with underlying conditions and/or symptoms including:
- inflammatory bowel conditions
- blood in their urine or stool
- bleeding hemorrhoids
- rectal bleeding, or are menstruating.
If a stool DNA test is positive a colonoscopy is usually recommended to identify the source. It is important to note that colonoscopy performed due to a positive stool DNA test is classified as a diagnostic service by most payers, so out of pocket costs may apply.
But wait, there’s more . . .
The most important thing in the fight against colorectal cancer is screening. Early detection is crucial and potentially lifesaving. Fortunately, you have options. We encourage you to speak to your doctor about which screening is best for you.
If you have any concerns about coverage or payment for colon cancer screening services, our GI Associates Financial Counselor will work with you to help understand your benefits.
The choice is yours
When it comes to colon cancer, getting screened is an essential part in your wellness plan. The key is to do something and you have screening options.
It is recommended that colon cancer screening start at age 50 for men and women who are at an average risk with no symptoms.
If colorectal cancer runs in your family or you have certain underlying conditions, you may need to get tested before age 50. Talk to your doctor about what is best for you.
Know your options
Colonoscopy is the most common test to detect colon cancer. Other tests include stool DNA tests, flexible sigmoidoscopy, double barium enema, and CT colonography. Based on your personal health history, your doctor can recommend the right test for you.
1. Colonoscopy: This is the only colorectal cancer screening option that both detects and prevents colorectal cancer. Prior to a procedure you complete a bowel preparation process that cleans out the colon to enable your doctor to see the lining of your rectum and colon. During a colonoscopy, your doctor gently inserts a colonoscope, which contains a tiny video camera at its tip, through the rectum into your large intestine. Your doctor examines the lining along the entire length of your large intestine.
If your doctor sees abnormal growths of tissue called polyps, tiny instruments are inserted through the colonoscope to remove them. The tissue samples are sent to a pathologist to evaluate whether they are benign, precancerous or malignant. Screening colonoscopy is recommended every 10 years between 50 and 75 years of age. It may be more frequently based on your findings and risk factors. If you’d like to learn more about what to expect before a colonoscopy, check out our video.
2. Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT): FIT detects hidden blood in the stool, which can indicate the presence of cancer. When a FIT test is positive a colonoscopy is usually recommended. FIT tests are recommended annually for average risk patients, age of 50 and over, with no symptoms.
3. Stool DNA Tests: The stool DNA test looks for abnormal DNA associated with colon cancer or colon polyps. The test also detects hidden blood in the stool, which can indicate the presence of cancer. If a stool DNA test is positive a colonoscopy is usually recommended. The stool DNA test is recommended for average risk patients with no symptoms and is usually recommended every 3-5 years.
The stool DNA test is not recommended for higher risk patients with a personal history of colon polyps or cancer, or who have inflammatory bowel conditions, diarrhea, blood in their urine or stool, bleeding hemorrhoids, rectal bleeding, or are menstruating. It is important to note that colonoscopy performed due to a positive stool DNA test is often classified as a diagnostic service by most payers.
4. CT Colonography (also referred to as virtual colonoscopy): A small tube is placed in the rectum and air is pumped into the colon to inflate the bowel. A special computer program creates both 2-dimensional x-ray pictures and a 3-dimensional view of the inside of the colon and rectum, which lets the doctor look for polyps or cancer. If the test is positive a colonoscopy is usually recommended to remove the growths. Preparation is the same as a colonoscopy. This test may be recommended when completion of a colonoscopy is not possible. It is usually recommended every 5 years.
5. Flexible Sigmoidoscopy: Similar to colonoscopy, this test uses a thin flexible tube with a camera to examine the rectum and left side of the colon. Whereas colonoscopy examines the entire length of the colon, sigmoidoscopy is a partial exam. The preparation is the same as a colonoscopy. When considering colon cancer screening options, flexible sigmoidoscopy is not as complete as a colonoscopy and therefore is not widely recommended for screening purposes. It’s typically repeated every 5 years.
6. Double Barium Enema: This is also called a lower GI tract radiography, in which a barium solution and air are introduced into the colon and a series of x-rays are taken of the entire colon and rectum. Double Barium Enema is often performed in combination with a flexible sigmoidoscopy. If the either of these test is positive a colonoscopy is usually recommended.
Early detection of colorectal cancer is crucial and potentially lifesaving. The most important step you can take is to get screened. GI Associates is proud to offer options to our patients so that together we can determine the best plan for you.
If you have any concerns about coverage or payment for colon cancer screening services, our GI Associates Financial Counselor will work with you to help understand your benefits.
Schedule your colon cancer screening today. Call 877-442-7736 or request an appointment online.
8 ways to minimize your risk
Colon Cancer Awareness Month is here. At GI Associates, we are passionate about the prevention and treatment of this potentially deadly disease. Below are eight ways you can minimize your risk of colon cancer:
- Don’t Smoke There’s nothing that is helped by smoking. You can reduce your risk for almost every kind of cancer when you quit. Find more reasons and help here.
- Drink in Moderation While some alcohol in moderation, like a glass of red wine with dinner, may have some health benefits. Keep in mind it’s better for your colon—and the rest of you, if you drink only in moderation.
- Cut Back on Red Meat As with alcohol, a moderate amount of red meat (2-3 servings a week) is just fine. However, studies have shown that a high consumption of red meat can increase your risk of colon cancer by 28%. Save the steak for special occasions.
- Eat Vegetables, Fruits, and Whole Grains Naturally, cutting back on red meat and replacing it with, say, chicken strips will not do you nearly as much good as it will to replace unhealthy foods with the holy trinity of cancer-fighting foods: green veggies, antioxidant-rich fruit, and whole grains.
- Healthy Lifestyle: Exercise Exercise is good for you for many reasons, and one of them is that it reduces your risk of colon and other cancers. In fact, exercise helps fight colon cancer even in those who have the disease.
- Healthy Lifestyle: Weight No surprise here. Even otherwise healthy people who are overweight are at a higher risk for colon cancer.
- Get screened. It’s not anyone’s favorite thing, but getting regular colonoscopies is the best way to prevent colon cancer. Learn more about them here.
- Know Your Family History If your primary relatives (mother, father, brother or sister or your children) is diagnosed with colon cancer, you are at higher risk. Ask around at your next family gathering to make sure you know your family history.
One of the very few “good things” colon cancer has going for it is that it’s preventable. We encourage you to make an appointment to learn more about how to stay free of colon cancer your whole life long.
When your stomach is growling so loudly that the person across the room can hear it, it’s tempting to grab a handful of chips or a cookie (or three). But if you have GERD, mindless snacking can have painful consequences. Be prepared for when the hunger pangs hit by adding these reflux-busting snacks to your grocery list.
- Non-citrus fruits
- Crackers with any type of nut butter
- Raw vegetables with dip or hummus
- Baked chips
- Half an avocado and some corn chips
- Baked chicken strips (or any small quantity of lean meat, besides red meat)
- Oatmeal or high-fiber cereal
- A baked potato, sweet potato, or yam
- Any type of grain
- Rice cakes
- Granola bars
- Half a bagel
- Lowfat dairy, such as lowfat cottage cheese with vegetables or crackers or fruit
- A hard-boiled egg
- A veggie or fruit (non-citrus) smoothie
Moderation is key
Even when you choose healthy snacks, too much of a good thing is, well, not good at all – especially when you have GERD. Limit your nibbles to small serving sizes, which will keep both your hunger and reflux under control. Experts recommend that you eat three small meals and two snacks daily.
Plan ahead and keep reflux-friendly foods within easy reach for when the hunger pangs hit. Board-certified gastroenterologists at GI Associates can help you manage GERD symptoms and create a diet plan that works best for you. For more information, call (877) 442-7762 or fill out our online form today.
'Tis the season for smart eating
With the holidays approaching, you’ve no doubt thought about the wonders of the season: that first snowfall, the singing of children, and Mom’s green bean casserole. Or maybe Grandma’s famous stuffing, or Cousin Jim’s signature deep-fried turkey. The point is, it’s hard to think about the holiday season without thinking about the food and the fun that comes with it.
However, if you’re among the 60% of Americans who experience GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) at least once a year, the indulgences of the holidays might make the season particularly painful. Here are some tips for avoiding painful symptoms during the holidays.
Round Up the Usual Suspects
And dispose of them! We all know the primary culinary culprits for acid reflux and GERD, but a reminder is good now and then. Many of these appear frequently on holiday tables, so look out!
- Fatty foods
- Spicy foods
- Acidic foods, like tomatoes and citrus
- Coffee or any caffeinated beverage
- Carbonated beverages
Eat More Meals with Less
Eating five or six little meals is a much better idea than eating three big meals for a number of reasons. You feel fuller more of the time, you tend to eat less, there is less pressure on your esophagus, and, you guessed it, GERD is reduced.
Take a Stand
Or at the very least, don’t lie down. Although it’s the tempting thing to do—especially after a big meal like Thanksgiving, taking a nap is terrible for GERD symptoms. Keep upright and let your digestive system do its thing—without having to work against gravity. Your stomach and esophagus will thank you.
Go Easy on the Drinks
Alcohol can trigger heartburn and GERD because it relaxes the muscles in your esophagus, making conditions optimal for acid to sneak up your esophagus and wreak havoc. Consider the consequences and then ask yourself if that cocktail is really worth it.
As if you needed another reason to quit! Among a whole list of other bad things, smoking, like alcohol, may actually cause your muscles in your esophagus to relax, which can cause stomach acid to rise up and cause pain.
The holidays are usually when you can expect a few pounds to creep up on you, but be vigilant: taking steps to lose weight or at least not gain more weight will help relieve heartburn and GERD symptoms. Obesity is closely linked to not only heartburn but also many other serious health conditions, so take the holidays in stride and be ready to keep or achieve a healthy weight in 2018.
For more information on GERD and heartburn, plus tips on how to treat them, visit http://www.giassoc.org/heartburn.html.
GI Associates is proud to support the annual Crohn’s and Colitis walk
Dr. Eric Johnson is the Honorary Chair of Wausau’s “Take Steps for Crohn’s and Colitis” walk. The event will take place on October 7th. It’s a cause that means a lot to him as a gastroenterologist—and as a son.
“When I was growing up, my dad had a significant case of Crohn’s disease. It was hard to watch someone you idolize suffer like he did. It was one of the reasons I went into gastroenterology,” says Dr. Johnson.
Today, the outlook for those diagnosed with Crohn’s or colitis is much better. “Much better than even ten years ago,” says Dr. Johnson. “We’re getting closer to a cure, but we still have a ways to go.”
It’s Dr. Johnson’s fourth year of being involved with the walk.
The walk is a celebration of those fighting these diseases as well as an opportunity to educate people about Crohn’s and colitis.
“It’s a great event,” says Dr. Johnson. “It raises money and awareness for Crohn’s and colitis. We have foods that are Crohn’s and colitis-friendly, ‘heroes’ who come and speak about their experience with the disease, and lots of people who are there to support loved ones suffering from Crohn’s or colitis.”
Even more important than the money and awareness that the walk raises, says Dr. Johnson, is the sense of community it gives people living with Crohn’s and colitis.
“These are silent diseases,” says Dr. Johnson. “There hasn’t been a lot of access to education, historically, in this part of the state. This walk is changing that.”
What does a successful walk look like to Dr. Johnson? “Every year we’ve grown,” he says. “This year’s event will be successful if we reach even more people, raise more money for a cure, and show everyone living with Crohn’s and colitis that there is support for them.”
For more information on the walk, visit the website here.
Stay regular as you travel this summer
It’s summertime, and chances are you’ve got travel plans coming up! There are lots of things to love about travel—seeing new sights, experiencing new things, and making your world just a little bigger. Unfortunately, there’s one thing that can put a damper on even the trip of a lifetime: digestive issues.
Don’t let constipation or diarrhea cramp your style (or your stomach). Be prepared and stay regular, even on the other side of the world.
From the moment those wheels go up, to the second your plane lands, it’s essential to stay hydrated. Whatever mode of transportation you’re using, it’s important to keep drinking water, but airplanes are particularly dehydrating spaces. The recirculate air and the inability to move around very much takes its toll on your body. And guess what? The four ounces of water they pass out every six hours is not going to be enough. Either buy the biggest bottle of water you can find after you pass through security or be prepared to ring the call button again and again.
Alas, going on vacation doesn’t mean you can take a break from eating smart. Avoid indulging too much in low-fiber foods, however tempting they may be. And if nothing else, make it a point to eat a healthy, high-fiber breakfast and start the day right.
Go out and see the sights! Climb the ancient ruins, walk though the old town, and be active on your journey! Walking and other exercise is as good for your heart as it is for your digestive system.
Don't drink the water.
In certain parts of the world, tap water can wreak havoc on your digestive system. Buy bottled water to avoid diarrhea and other stomach issues.
Don’t let digestive issues ruin your summer travel. Don’t spend the whole time in the bathroom or wishing you were! Take the proper precautions, eat and drink smart, and have happy memories to last a lifetime!
Fruits and vegetables taste the best—and cost the least—when they are in season. Spring, summer, and fall all offer waves of delicious in-season produce. Make it your mission to hit the farmers markets, or even just your grocery store, to take advantage of tasty, healthy savings.
But what happens when you’re up to your eyeballs in Swiss chard? How much kale can you expect your family to eat in one week? And it’s great all that broccoli only cost a dollar, but now what are you going to do with it? Try these tips to get the most out of your food. After all, that package of strawberries does you no good if it ends up in the garbage can.
Think Outside the Oven: When the weather is nice enough for a bountiful produce section, chances are it’s nice enough to grill! Grilling is a great way to infuse otherwise boring vegetables with a bit more flavor and interest. Experiment with grill baskets or kebabs and pair a host of grilled veggies with some grilled chicken for the ultimate healthy meal from the grill.
Sauce What’s in Season: Especially good for picky eaters, chopping and dicing vegetables and sneaking them into your favorite pasta sauce is a great way to use a lot of your fresh produce. Also try adding them as a layer or two in your signature lasagna recipe.
Freeze It: Not all fruits and veggies freeze well, but the ones that do—like hearty green vegetables and fruits like apples and strawberries—can be enjoyed year-round. Save money later on by using your frozen food in the winter months, when prices increase and produce selection decreases.
Sip More Smoothies: Another great use for your stock of frozen produce, smoothies are a great solution to an overflowing fridge or freezer. Splash some almond milk in a blender, add whatever you have on hand, from kale to kiwi, and enjoy the best way to drink your vitamins.
Start a Harvest Table: Talk to your church, community center, or schools about setting up a “Harvest Table.” Perhaps your garden is chock full of zucchini, while someone else was blessed with more tomatoes than one family could ever eat. Share the wealth by establishing a place to leave and take produce as it comes in season.
For more ways to incorporate seasonal fruits and vegetables in an acid-reflux-friendly diet, try these recipes!