Tuesday May 21, 2013
Image © Christy Thompson/Dreamstime
If you're still wading through pamphlets and instructions prior to your scheduled colonoscopy tomorrow, this blog's for you. Typically, your gastroenterologist's office will provide a stack of instructions, medications, and a date for the exam. It may seem overwhelming -- especially as friends and family start to regale you with their colonoscopy stories.
Don't Wait Until the Last Minute
Your doctor's pre-procedure instructions may need to be started as early as two days prior to the exam. Depending on the doctor's preference and your health, you might need to begin a low residue diet as early as 48 hours before test time and a clear liquid diet the day prior.
You might also need to pick up over-the-counter laxatives or prescription medications to clear your bowels depending on your doctor's orders. If you're just now finding that you have not completed the pre-test bowel prep as ordered call your doctor. He or she may wish to reschedule your exam. To avoid no-show or cancellation fees, the sooner you call, the better.
If your doctor ordered a special diet, it is easier to follow if you have foods you like on hand. Most physicians provide a list of foods acceptable for a low residue diet which might include:
- Skinless boiled or mashed potatoes
- White bread
- Ripe bananas
- Nutritional shakes (such as Ensure, Boost, or Glycerna)
- Chicken noodle soup
Following the low residue diet you may be switched to a clear liquid diet. This means you can eat or drink most anything you can see through -- although alcohol does not count as a clear liquid. Good items to have on hand include gelatin, popsicles, and bouillon.
Do not eat or drink anything that is artifically colored red or purple -- this can stain your colon and camoflauge abnormalities.
Tuesday April 30, 2013
Image © Julie Wilkinson
More often than not, the majority of questions I receive by email at firstname.lastname@example.org focus on gas and bowel movement issues. Fact is, farting stinks, no pun intended. Excess gas can cause abdominal and social discomfort - but bowel irregularities and constipation can hold far more serious complications.
Only you can determine if you are truly "regular" or not. Every one of us has a unique "normal" bowel movement pattern - perhaps you move your bowels every two days, but your spouse moves hers daily. The trick is knowing what is regular for you, and then considering any irregular patterns that deviate from this.
When your physician asks you if you've had any bowel irregularity, he or she is inquiring about your (and only your) bowel schedule. If you used to move your bowels twice daily and haven't had a movement today, it is most likely not a cause for concern and does not mean you are irregular. When this pattern persists over time, and the texture, size, or color of your bowel movements constantly changes, that may be irregular. Your stool travels all the way through your digestive tract and can say a lot about your health upon its exit. Perhaps it's constantly too firm or painful to pass - you may not be drinking enough water or eating enough fiber. Bottom line, if you are noticing something irregular about your bowel movements, schedule a doctor's appointment so you can discuss it. There's nothing embarrassing about it.
If you want to learn more about what your bowels might tell you start here:
Monday April 29, 2013
Image © Pavalache Stelian/Dreamstime
If you are considering it, you are not alone. According to statistics from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, four out of 10 adults have tried some form of complementary alternative medicine (CAM), and this number is on the rise in the United States.
CAM entails a large group of non-conventional treatments. Some have been used for centuries, including acupuncture, use of a Shaman, or meditation. These therapies are most commonly used in collaboration with Western medicine, as opposed to in place of Western medicine. For instance, if you use flaxseed or fish oil, you are partaking in natural supplementation, which is a form of CAM. Although the list is steadily growing, the following include some of the most recognizable forms of alternative medicine:
- Deep breathing and controlled breathing
- Natural supplementation
- Chelating therapy
- Diet therapy
- Energy healing
- Guided imagery
If you are currently undergoing treatment for colon cancer, such as chemotherapy, it is highly encouraged that you discuss your desire to start CAM with your oncologist before you try it. There is a chance that CAM may interfere with your conventional treatment. Your doctor can help guide you in a safe direction and check to make sure that the CAM you desire will not interfere with your treatments.
According to the National Cancer Institute, there are currently 42 open trials researching the effects of CAM and colon cancer, specifically. These trials include monitoring the effects of supplements, such as curcumin, selenium, Vitamins E and D, and different types of yoga and psychological interventions in people with colon polyps or colon cancer. You can learn more about these and past studies by visiting the NCI website by clicking here.
Tuesday April 23, 2013
We already know he's man's best friend, but can Fido use his supersensitive nose to detect colon cancer? According to a report from Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities, the canine sniffing sense is about 1,000 times better than ours. Our furry friends have long been used for search, rescue and defense missions, and work alongside government organizations including FEMA, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, TSA, and the police K-9 forces.
According to a study published in the Boston Medical Journal, highly trained Labrador retrievers were able to accurately detect the presence of colon cancer - simply by smelling exhaled breath or stool - 91 percent of the time. Simply put, that means Rover was able to sniff out cancer almost nine out of 10 times. Following the dog's prediction, each candidate had an endoscopic colonoscopy to verify the presence or absence of colon cancer.
Researchers have long been working to increase the accuracy of trained canine's abilities to detect skin, bladder, lung and breast cancers. By smell alone, trained dogs detect specific chemicals on our skin or in our breath called volatile organic compounds (VOC) when we have cancer. The stories you might have heard about a friend's dog sniffing out her cancerous tumors - well before she was diagnosed with the disease - might not be just another urban legend.
Although these canine cancer catchers sound amazing, I would propose that this form of colorectal cancer screening won't become official anytime soon - if ever. For one, it's not cost or time efficient. In the study reviewed, it took almost a decade simply to train the dogs. So for now and the unforeseeable future, the good old colonoscopy continues as the golden standard for early colorectal cancer detection.