Friday February 28, 2014
Image © Christy Thompson/Dreamstime Stock Photos.
Alright all you survivors, family members, loved ones and care providers -- tomorrow kicks off National Colon Cancer Awareness month. Dig into that closet and find your blue! The dark blue ribbon of awareness serves as a reminder to all that we are working together to stop colon cancer. I'm not a scientist and I don't have the license or skill to perform colonoscopies. My part in this war on cancer is simple: I educate, advocate, and inform. The more people I reach, the more people learn that awareness and screening are the frontline tools against colorectal cancer.
Two years ago I signed a petition, which I posted here on About.com, to paint the White House blue for March. Although enough signatures were not obtained to actually put the idea into effect, it was still fun. Last year I painted my legs blue. I'm not sure what I'll do this year, but I'm open to options if any readers have suggestions (preferably of the non-permanent kind as I did have a friend suggest dying my hair blue).
Since tomorrow is March 1st, I'd like to kick off the month by providing you with some of my favorite go-to websites. With the wealth of information available at your fingertips on the World Wide Web, it's always a good idea to weed out the sites that mostly offer opinion or are trying to sell you something and get straight to the sites that provide fact.
The American Cancer Society is always an excellent starting point for information. When I want to research information on clinical trials or the newest colorectal cancer findings, I usually hop onto the National Cancer Institute website. If I'm looking for statistics, I'll start with the National Cancer Institute but have also found the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention site helpful. If I write a specific article on surgery or treatments, the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons has a plethora of information to share.
Friday February 28, 2014
Image © Sasho Alusevski/Dreamstime Stock Photos.
Wouldn't it be amazing if we had a vaccine to help treat colon cancer? Actually, the National Cancer Institute has a trial in phase one that is studying just that concept. The vaccine in this study is not intended to prevent you from getting cancer or a recurrence, rather it helps your body fight the cancer using the amazing powers of your own immune system. Although the trial is still in very early phases, it's exciting research. The proposed name of this vaccine is AdHER2/Neu dendritic cell vaccine. Neu or dendritic cells are immune system cells -- the vaccine would be personally tailored to each person's immune system, not a mass produced shot.
This type of cancer treatment falls under the category of immunotherapy. The therapies function by using a part of your own immune system to help your body better fight the cancer on its own. We are already using different forms of immunotherapy to treat cancer, but the science is still fairly new and there is a lot to explore.
And that's just the tip of the iceberg. There are many studies in progress not only at the National Cancer Institute but in large hospitals worldwide. The researchers are trying to find new and better ways to treat colon cancer through use of different chemotherapy drug combinations, combining therapies (chemotherapy and radiation therapy together, for instance), and even working to develop new targeted therapies to kill cancer cells.
Thursday February 27, 2014
Image © Pavalache Stelian/Dreamstime Stock Photos
Yes, there is a specific yoga pose designated to help your colon. Many of the core twisting, compression asanas claim this, but there is a specific pose designated specifically for the large intestine. If you practice Bikram yoga you may be familiar with the wind removing pose, or Pavanmaktasana. This asana is used to release tension in your ascending, transverse, and descending colon.
If you've ever spent time in a yoga class -- especially for beginners -- this position holds true to its name. The compression on the abdominal organs tends to force any retained gas outward (hence the name, wind removing). It is a polite way of saying "this asana is going to make you fart".
If you are familiar with yoga poses at all, the wind removing pose is basically the positional opposite of the child's pose. Both poses start on the floor, in the position of many clearing yoga poses. However, in the wind removing pose, you are lying supine. Let me clarify one point -- I am not a yoga practitioner. I have practiced the wind removing pose and it was true to its name. That's all I will say about that.
In my non-yoga master terminology, basically you raise one knee towards your chest and hold. Raise the alternate knee towards your chest and hold. Then raise both knees and hold. Many yoga beginners mistake this pose for a hip or gluteal stretch -- it is not. It is an abdominal compression meant to clear the "wind" from your abdominal organs. Hence, you should have excellent gas relief with this pose.
On a side note, when my oldest son was a baby he had horrendous colic. As most parents know, colic is a byproduct of excess gas and upset in the digestive system. My pediatricians advice was to take my sons tiny legs and "bicycle them" towards his chest slowly -- basically I was doing the wind removing pose to my son without yoga knowledge at the time. The result? A sound night sleep for mom, dad and baby.
Wednesday February 19, 2014
Image © Robert Brown/Dreamstime.com
Are you still trying to figure out what is and what is not good for your colon's health? If your answer is yes, we are not so different. Even as a registered nurse with over 17 years of experience, I still get confused following the latest trends and inconclusive studies. Eat this to decrease your cancer risk -- oops, nevermind, that might actually be bad for you. I thought it would be entertaining to review some past popular trends.
The Great Coffee Debate
The magic properties of the coffee bean have come to light in recent studies. Coffee is bad for your colon. Coffee is good for your colon. We've bounced back and forth over the years but remain at a standstill. Some small studies suggested that people who drink more coffee have a decreased risk of colon cancer, yet these same studies showed that another percentage -- albeit small -- of people in the same study actually increased their colon cancer risk by drinking more caffeinated beverages.
Increased Fiber Decreases Your Cancer Risk
Yet again, this one is under debate. Although a high fiber diet is connected with undeniable health benefits, it has not unanimously been agreed that a heavy consumption of fiber directly impacts your colon cancer risk. Regardless of what tests do or do not show, eating whole grains, fruits and vegetables with fiber is good for you, even if we cannot directly correlate it with a decreased colon cancer risk.
Eating Too Much Sugar
Now we all know that eating too many products full of refined sugar can cause health problems, but can it actually cause colon cancer? The answers found in studies over the years are not completely conclusive. One general trend that I did find -- eating too much sugar can lead to obesity, which is associated with a higher risk of colon cancer.
I'm not discouraging anyone from following the studies and educating themselves. I am only suggesting that we all mix in a dab of common sense when reading them. If something sounds too fantastic to be true...it probably is. As a two-cup-of-coffee-per-day sort of gal, I was pretty happy about the initial studies showing that the coffee bean may have preventive properties. However, I didn't immediately start drinking four cups per day. As of yet, I have not seen anything better than the time-tested regiment of a good diet, routine screening exams and exercise to help decrease your risk of colon cancer.