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KEEPING YOUR COLON HEALTH IN CHECK IS IMPORTANT FOR EVERYONE

Did you know that nearly 100,000 people are diagnosed with Colon Cancer and 40,000 with rectal cancer each year? In other words, one in 24 men and one in 22 women will develop colon or rectal cancer in their lifetimes.  March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month, a time to evaluate the state of your colon health and learn how to monitor colorectal health going forward. Stay in touch with your colon!

COLONOSCOPY 101

Unlike other cancers screening tools, colonoscopy is unique in that it can both diagnose and help prevent colorectal cancer by removing polyps before they progress to cancer.

WHO SHOULD GET A COLONOSCOPY?

Common misconceptions are that you only need a colonoscopy if you have a family history of colorectal cancer or polyps. However, 80-90% new colorectal cancer cases have no family history - this means that the vast majority of new cases will be the first person in their family to be diagnosed.

Others think that if they have no symptoms, they can’t possibly have colorectal cancer. But by the time patients develop symptoms of weight loss, abdominal pain or changes to their bowel habits, the cancer has often already progressed to a very late stage.

This is why screening is so important. We want to find polyps and early cancer that are easily treated.

WHEN SHOULD I GET MY FIRST COLONOSCOPY?

Every adult should undergo their first screening by the age of 50. Some patients should start earlier, depending on other factors. It is best to talk to your doctor about when you should start screening.

Some people delay or avoid screening because they are afraid of the test. A focus of Colon Cancer Awareness Month is to spread the word about colonoscopy - the test is not painful and is very safe.

SCHEDULE YOUR COLONOSCOPY

It’s easy to schedule your colonoscopy with IHA – simply visit our online appointment tool to request your colonoscopy appointment. Our team will verify that you’re eligible for colonoscopy screening with your primary care provider and will confirm your appointment.

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For most adults, screening for colon cancer starts soon after turning 50. This because the chances of getting colon cancer increase as you get older. According to the CDC, 90% of cases occur in people 50 years or older. However, this doesn’t mean that adults younger than 50 can’t develop colon cancer and it’s important to know if you are at risk.

A history of colon cancer in the family means it could be genetic. If a close relative, generally your parent, sibling or child, has had colorectal polyps or colon cancer it is important to get screenings at a younger age. This risk is even higher if that family member was younger than 45-years-old when they were diagnosed with cancer, or if more than one close relative is affected. Additionally, if you have inflammatory bowel disease, your risk of colon cancer is increased.

Colon cancer forms when abnormal growths, called polyps, form in the colon or rectum. These polyps can mutate into cancer and spread throughout the colon. Thankfully, screening tests like a colonoscopy can find the polyps and your physician can remove them during a colonoscopy before they turn into cancer.

Colon cancer is one of the most treatable forms of cancer and there are a number of lifestyle factors that you can be aware of to actively reduce the risk of getting colon cancer. These include getting the recommended amount of physical activity, eating a healthy diet with fruits and vegetables, maintaining a healthy body weight and watching your consumption of alcohol and tobacco.

Even without inflammatory bowel disease or a family history of colon cancer, it is vital to listen to your body. If you think something is wrong, make an appointment with your doctor.

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Coronary artery disease (CAD) is a condition where plaque filled with cholesterol deposits in the blood vessels of the heart. As a result, your heart does not get enough blood flow and oxygen, which leads to a variety of conditions ranging from angina to heart attacks. The biggest risk factors for developing CAD are smoking, diabetes and family history. Hypertension, high cholesterol levels and poor lifestyle habits, like lack of exercise and an unhealthy diet, are also risk factors.

The best treatment of CAD is prevention. Quit smoking, control your diabetes, blood pressure and cholesterol levels. You want your LDL (bad cholesterol) to be low, and you want your HDL (good cholesterol) to be high. This can be achieved with diet, exercise and medications.

 

Symptoms of CAD can be vague. Chest pain is the most common symptom, but it can also present as jaw pain, neck pain, arm pain, back pain, shortness of breath or fatigue. Early recognition is key. Contrary to popular belief, women over 55-years-old carry a higher risk than men of the same age. The risk in younger men is higher than in older men.

There are various ways to treat CAD. Medications, lifestyle changes like quitting smoking, controlling your diabetes, blood pressure and cholesterol levels, as well as stents or bypass surgery. A stent is a device that looks like the spring of a ballpoint pen, which keeps arteries open. These are life-saving in situations of a heart attack. Nowadays, open heart bypass surgeries are reserved for extensive blockages in multiple areas of the heart, and/or when the blockage is in a critical part of the heart, which is not suitable for a stent.

The latest in stent technology is bioabsorbable stents, which disappear after their job of keeping the arteries open is done. These are currently being used by myself and other Michigan Heart physicians. If you have questions about CAD, please talk to your primary care physician or cardiologist.