Sunday March 30, 2014
Image © Nonmim/Dreamstime Stock Photos
Getting diagnosed with any kind of cancer can elicit strong reactions in the most meek of us. You might think of what you would say during that moment, but the fact is, none of us know how we will react until it becomes necessary.
In light of the end of Colon Cancer Awareness month, I want to reiterate one point: I know I frequently discuss the importance of screening and colon cancer prevention. This is not meant to take away from the many survivors out there who were doing absolutely everything right and still were diagnosed with colon cancer. There is no blame to you, I am just doing my best to encourage people who are frightened or unaware of screening tests to empower themselves.
Moving from the "newly diagnosed" group to the "I'm a survivor" group is rife with frustration, challenges, and even self doubt. I've highlighted some articles below to help you make that transition if you are newly diagnosed with colon cancer.
- Newly Diagnosed and Dealing with It. This article encapsulates all of the firsts you face during your new journey with colon cancer.
- Top Five Things Not to Do After a Cancer Diagnosis. I know -- it's self-explanatory. However, these are the most common mistakes we make.
- Telling Your Family. For someone who's never faced a cancer diagnosis, this is not easy. Looking your loved ones in the eye and telling them you are prepared to fight a potentially life threatening disease is not for the weak of will.
- Should I Choose a Cancer Treatment Center? Choosing the what, when, how, and where of your colon cancer treatment is a highly personal choice. Let this article inform you about the benefits of treatment centers and see if this choice is right for you.
Every one of you has their own story to tell. Getting diagnosed and dealing with colon cancer irrevocably changes your life. I've witnessed patients, such as my grandfather, take the diagnosis in stride and even take pleasure in showing off their new "thing-a-ma-jiggy" (the colostomy). On the other hand, I've seen patients newly diagnosed giving up before the treatments even started. Take this moment to pat yourself on the back. If you are here and you are reading this, then you're already taking steps towards being a survivor.
Sunday March 30, 2014
Image © Nyul13505016/Dreamstime Stock Photos
As the National Colon Cancer Awareness month comes to an end, our conscientiousness about the topic does not need to waver. As the second leading type of cancer, the goal should continue to focus on decreasing people's risk of developing this disease and increasing awareness of the same. If that statement sounds extraordinarily simple it's because it is simple -- although you will not get a guarantee to be cancer-free, you will decrease your risk.
Following your doctor's advice regarding your first and ongoing screening exams to detect colorectal cancer is the foremost way to decrease your risk. The concept is simple: skip your screening exams and your risk increases. Adults without a family history or personal risk factors may start their screening exams around 50 years (45 years if you are African American), but if you have a history or risk factors you will need to get screened sooner.
Hopefully, the majority of Mr. Winter is behind us here in the Northern Hemisphere, which means we will soon be enjoying our outdoor foods and grills in pleasant weather. I'm not saying you need to stop grilling your meats, but you could research the correlation between colon cancer and charbroiled foods. When you cook meats at very high temperatures (such as over the open flame of your grill) chemical compounds are released. Heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are carcinogens (things known to cause cancer) that get in your body by eating chargrilled meats.
While you're considering getting outside, think about the benefits of exercise for your colon. In fact, the less you move and the more you eat, your weight will increase, which boosts your risk for several different types of cancer! If you haven't exercised in a while or have a medical history, talk to your doctor about starting an exercise program before you get started.
There is one thing that can help you lose unhealthy weight and benefit your colon at the same time: A well balanced diet. Increasing the amount of healthful nutrients on your plate at each meal. You don't need to become vegan to really drop your risk, just bump up your consumption of fiber and plant foods and skip the processed ones.
I won't belabor you on the rest of the myriad unhealthy habits (smoking, drinking) that also increase the risk of colon cancer. Talk to your doctor if you're having trouble stopping an unhealthy habit. There are so many wonderful resources available.
Tuesday March 25, 2014
Image © Dmitriy Shironosov/Dreamstime Stock Images
That's right, I said free as in no charge, gratis, on the house, and complimentary colorectal cancer resources. There are so many mediums for colorectal cancer advocacy, support and education that it would be a shame to not highlight some of them for you.
Whether you are fighting colon cancer or just want to help support the fight, these resources can get you get started. This is not an exhaustive list. Please feel free to email me if I have missed any of your favorite resources - we can continue to build upon this together.
The American Cancer Society (ACS) has been supporting the fight against cancer since 1913. Here you will find local support, education, trials and can learn more about colon cancer and treatment options. You can reach their toll-free 24-hour hotline at 1-800-227-2345.
The Colorectal Cancer Coalition campaign, Fight Colorectal Cancer, is a colorectal cancer advocacy organization operating out of Washington, D.C. They offer a free "Newly Diagnosed" kit, a quarterly newsletter, patient webinars, and patient advocacy and education through their website. You can reach their toll-free Answer Line at 1-877-427-2111.
The Colon Cancer Alliance (CCA) is a colon cancer advocacy organization that provides tele-chats, webinars and the buddy program to help fight colon cancer and raise awareness. The CCA uses original fundraisers, such as the Undy 5000, to raise money used to support screening for colon cancer and fund further advocacy. You can reach their toll-free helpline at 1-877-422-2030.
The National Cancer Institute is a government organization that provides education and answers about colon cancer to include current clinical trials and research, prevention and screening facts. You can browse their website to learn more, chat online through their LiveHelp Online Chat option, or call them at 1-800-4-CANCER.
If you are computer savvy and would like to get connected with other people facing similar health challenges, you can sign up free at Caring Bridge, a non-profit organization that provides free websites for connecting with friends and family.
The Association of Cancer Online Resources (ACOR) provides a comprehensive list of online communities fighting cancer together. You can access their free mailing lists with a couple clicks.
Last but not least, you are very welcome to find the resources and support you deserve here. My 365 day a year focus is on helping to promote awareness about colon cancer -- not only during the month of March. I can be found in person on Twitter, Facebook and the Colon Cancer forum here at About.com.
Thursday March 20, 2014
Image © Dennis Owusu-ansah/Dreamstime Stock Photos
It's largely advertised that the typical age to begin colon cancer screening is on your fiftieth birthday. Although it may not be as fun a milestone as turning 16 and driving or turning 21 and drinking, it is an important year. However, if you are an African American you are encouraged to start screening tests by your forty-fifth year.
According to the American Cancer Society, African Americans have both the highest mortality rate (death due to colon cancer) and rate of being diagnosed with colon cancer. Although research has not determined the rationale behind this fact, the statistics don't lie.
Your ethnicity is one of those risk factors that you cannot change. Other static risk factors for colon cancer include:
- Gender (men have an increased risk over women)
- Underlying health conditions (such as diabetes)
- Family history and genetic disorders
So what can be done? First, lets start spreading awareness that African Americans need screening exams, such as the colonoscopy, to begin on their forty-fifth birthday. If colon cancer is found and stopped in its early stages, perhaps we can decrease these horrid statistics. Next, consider taking an active part in decreasing your risk for colon cancer, especially if you have any of the static risk factors previously mentioned. Although you cannot change your skin color and more than your age, you can change your:
- Diet to include more fruits and vegetables
- Exercise regiment
- Unhealthy habits (smoking, drinking to excess)
If you have identified any risks in yourself (or have a family history of cancer) talk to your doctor and learn when you should start screening exams.