Posts for tag: colon cancer
When COVID-19 exploded onto the scene in early 2020, few if any could predict the enormous social, economic, and even political impacts that were to come. An interesting thing occurred, though, in the midst of the rising tide of the pandemic. While diagnosed cases of COVID-19 continued to rise around the country, some cancer diagnoses were on the decline, including those of colorectal cancer. On the surface, this would appear to be a monumental development and accomplishment in the fight against colorectal cancer! However, a closer look reveals the truth in the timing. The decrease in cancer diagnoses is directly related to the dramatic decrease in exams and screenings this past year, a trend we need to see reversed in 2021.
Why Was There a Decrease in Cancer Screenings?
To say we were unprepared as a nation for a pandemic like COVID-19 is an understatement, and this became very apparent early on as health care facilities and hospitals in different areas around the country became overwhelmed with patients. Even as they neared or reached their patient capacity, information was still being acquired as to the contagious nature and potency of this disease. In a desire to minimize the spread and to conserve resources in the healthcare system, elective procedures, including certain cancer screening procedures, were postponed.
To their immense credit, the medical community of doctors, scientists, and researchers worked around the clock to understand how to treat COVID and how to reduce its spread. As more information became available regarding protective measures and patient safety, doctors began to schedule screenings again. This lapse of time though, will ultimately come at a cost, as cancer is a disease that doesn’t delay or stop due to worldwide pandemics or cultural changes. Unfortunately, it is inevitable that too many people will find out later than they should have that they have colorectal cancer. And as we know with cancer, every day counts when it comes to early detection and treatment.
I Missed My Last Screening. When Should I Reschedule?
Time matters when it comes to cancer, so you should reschedule your missed appointment. If you are concerned about COVID-19, we can assure you that we are taking every precaution possible when it comes to protecting your health and slowing the spread. Contact us to schedule an appointment, whether you are a new patient or a current patient, or schedule your screening here.
Is There a Vaccine and When Will I Have Access?
Yes! A COVID-19 Vaccine has recently been approved, with the CDC and FDA managing the distribution process.
In the near future, and as supplies ramp up, everyone will be able to have access to the vaccine. However, due to the initial limited supply of the vaccine, the state of Wisconsin (per supplies allocated at the federal level) will follow the recommendations developed by the federal Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and the State Disaster Medical Advisory Committee. As such, the vaccine will be offered in a series of phases, with the frontline healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities being the first to receive access.
For more information on the development of this plan and distribution timelines, take a few moments and read the COVID-19 Distribution Plan for Wisconsin as well as the DHS executive summary, COVID-19 Vaccination - Planning in Action.
Cancer Screening: The Choice is Yours
When it comes to colon cancer, getting screened is an essential part of your wellness plan. The key is to do something and you have screening options.
Average risk screening colonoscopy starts at age 50 (or 45 by some sources) and is recommended every 10 years until the age of 75. If polyps are found on colonoscopy, the interval of recommended colonoscopy may be shortened.
If colorectal cancer runs in your family or you have certain underlying conditions, you may need to get tested earlier. Talk to your doctor about what is best for you.
Know your options
Colonoscopy is the most common test to detect colon cancer, as well as the most reliable. 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.
A colonoscopy is the only colorectal cancer screening option that both detects and prevents colorectal cancer. As a routine, preventative screening, colonoscopies are covered by most insurance plans which often means little or no out-of-pocket cost to you!
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 45 and 75 years of age 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 here.
Occasionally, patients have reservations about getting a colonoscopy, or there may be reasons to consider alternative screening methods. At the advice of your doctor, you might also be able to consider one of these alternatives:
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 the 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 flexible sigmoidoscopy. If either of these tests 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.
Preventative screenings like colonoscopies are typically covered by insurance and so don't have any costs to 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.
If your parents, siblings, or kids have been diagnosed with colorectal cancer, it’s important for you to be screened- regardless of your age.
Recent studies show that first-degree relatives of patients with colorectal cancer or advanced colorectal polyps:
- Are at a higher risk for advanced colorectal polyps and colorectal cancer themselves
- May require more frequent testing or screening
- Should be in close communications with their doctor
What are polyps?
While they typically don’t cause symptoms, polyps are growths on the inside walls of the colon that protrude into the colon passageway. Polyps range in size from a small dot to several inches. Men tend to develop them more than women. We know that most colorectal cancers come from polyps. So, if polyps are found and removed before they become cancerous, about 75-90 percent of cases of colorectal cancer can be prevented.
It is possible to experience some signs of polyps, particularly if the polyps are located on the rectum. Some symptoms of colonic polyps to be mindful of include:
- Blood on toilet paper after wiping
- Blood in the stool
- Pain, constipation, or diarrhea that lasts upward of a week
- Nausea and vomiting
These symptoms can point to a number of different causes, so to be sure, it’s important to visit your doctor.
Lifestyle Changes and other identifiers:
There are certain conditions and even lifestyle choices that may increase the risk of polyps or colon cancer. These include smoking and overconsumption of red meat (particularly in women).
If you have diabetes, are overweight, or have other bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, or inflammatory bowel disease you may be at higher risk to develop colon cancer.
How Are Polyps Treated?
A colonoscopy is the most effective way to identify and remove polyps. In most cases, colonic polyps are easily removed during a colonoscopy by performing a procedure known as polypectomy. In some cases, larger polyps cannot be removed with the colonoscope, and surgery must be scheduled.
If you have any type of colonic polyps, you will need to follow up with your doctor after removal. The frequency of regular follow up and repeat colonoscopy is determined based on the type and number of polyps you are found to have.
Schedule an appointment
If you need more information about colonic polyps, colon cancer, or to discuss your family history regarding screening, simply request an appointment with GI Associates.
The sobering facts
Once upon a time, young people, women, and other segments of the population could rest easy knowing they were at very low risk for the brutal disease that is colon cancer. Unfortunately, that’s no longer the case. Colon cancer isn’t just for older males in poor health anymore. Young people, women, and otherwise healthy older men are all at a greater risk for colon cancer than ever before.
- Young Adults: The American Cancer Society recently changed colon cancer screening guidelines from testing beginning at age 50 to testing beginning at 45. This is a step in the right direction, but the rate of colon cancer among much younger adults is on the rise. According to this article, by 2030, colorectal cancer incidence rates will be up 90% in people between ages 20 and 34, and 28% for people between ages 35 and 49.
- African Americans: According to an article in U.S. News & World Report, “African-Americans are more likely to develop colorectal cancer at a younger age and to be at a more advanced stage when diagnosed.” There are a lot of socioeconomic factors at play here, including access to care, awareness, and lifestyle.
- Women: Colon cancer is the third leading cause of cancer death for American women. The perception used to be that men get colon cancer and women do not, however this notion is dangerously outdated. The truth is that 1 in 21 men will get colon cancer and 1 in 23 women will develop the disease. Early detection, as expected, is essential.
We encourage everyone, no matter who you are, to take colon cancer seriously and know that it could happen to you. Take this online assessment with your healthcare provider to determine your personal risk.
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.
Colonoscopy: An Important Colon Cancer Screening Procedure
A colonoscopy allows your doctor to examine the lining of your large intestine or colon for any abnormalities. During a colon cancer screening in Wausau, WI, a thin flexible tube is inserted and slowly advances through the GI tract into the rectum and colon. Known as the colonoscope, your doctor can view images on a video monitor with ease. Polyps or abnormal growths in the colon lining may be found that can be removed during this important cancer screening procedure.
Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. Known as the silent killer, there are usually no warning signs. At age 50 all adults are urged to get screened.
More about Colon Cancer Screenings in Wausau, WI
For most patients, there is no pain during this procedure. Patients may feel cramping, bloating or pressure after the colonoscopy. If your doctor thinks something needs further evaluation, they may obtain a biopsy and take a sample to be analyzed. After a colon cancer screening in Wausau, WI, one of our board certified gastroenterologists professionals from GI Associates & GI Associates Endoscopy Center will explain the results of your procedure with you. Further information about diet and activities will be given to you too. You will need a ride since you are given a sedative during the procedure, which makes it unsafe for you to drive for the rest of the day. In general, there are few complications associated with a colonoscopy, but bleeding at the site of a polyp or biopsy sample removal is the most common. To schedule this important screening procedure with one of our professionals, call 877-442-7762 today.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 140,000 Americans are diagnosed with colon cancer each year. A cancer diagnosis is a scary thing, no matter how you swing it. However, finding cancer in its early stages means higher treatment success rates.
Generally, individuals with average risk of colon cancer should receive a colon cancer screening at age 50.
Depending on your risk factors, your doctor may recommend that you begin cancer screenings earlier or more frequently.
Signs and Symptoms of Colon Cancer
Often there are no symptoms. That is why colon cancer is often referred to as the silent killer. However, there are signs and symptoms that all adults should take seriously, including:
- blood in the stool
- a significant change in your bowel movements or habits
- changes in the stool’s consistency
- rectal bleeding
- unexplained weight loss
If you notice any of these symptoms, you should contact your primary care provider.
Diagnosing Colon Cancer
Our Board Certified Gastroenterologists perform a colonoscopy procedure to diagnose and treat early stages of colon cancer. During this procedure a long, flexible tube is inserted through the anus and into the colon to examine the colon and its tissues. Your gastroenterologist can then use miniaturized instruments inserted through the tube to take biopsies or even remove polyps during colonoscopy.
Colon Cancer Treatments in Wausau, WI
Colon cancer treatment varies depending on the cancer’s stage. Your doctor may suggest removing early-stage cancerous polyps within the colon using colonoscopy or minimally-invasive surgery. Cancer in its later stages usually requires more invasive surgical techniques to remove the cancerous tissues. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy destroy any cancerous cells left behind after surgery.
For more information on colon cancer or its symptoms, please contact your Gastrointestinal Associates in Wausau, WI. Call (877) 442-7762 to schedule your appointment for a consultation today!