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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.
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More often than not, the majority of questions I receive by email at email@example.com 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:
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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.
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.
Knowledge is Power
Insurance Coverage for Screening Exams
Forewarning Can Help You Make Better Decisions
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What do people running in their underwear, blue ribbons and preventive medicine have in common? They all stand for something: Colorectal cancer awareness saves lives. Although the Colon Cancer Alliance's Undy Runs are a super fun -- and entertaining -- way to raise money for colon cancer awareness, they serve an important purpose: Raising money for the treatment and cure of this disease. The blue ribbons and other cancer gear serve a similar purpose in promoting awareness. There are still far too few Americans getting out there and getting screened for colon cancer -- a statistic that can hopefully be changed with your help.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 60 percent of colon cancer deaths are preventable with early screening. So, why isn't everyone over 50 years of age getting screened for colon cancer? Simple question with a not-so-simple answer.
Some people cannot afford the screening exams. Other people might be frightened of the potential results or fear of the unknown. A handful of people still don't know that screening exams can catch colon cancer in its earliest stages when it is most treatable.
This year presents many opportunities to share colorectal cancer awareness to a wider audience. The Affordable Care Act is doing its part -- helping to mandate private health insurance coverage for preventive screening exams, such as the colonoscopy. Now it's time to do our part. It can be as simple as sharing information about colon cancer screening with everyone that you love or as outgoing as running in your underwear at the next event -- which is in Buffalo, NY, by the way.
If you want to learn more about upcoming Undy Runs in your area check out the schedule here.
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Everyone enjoys a heartwarming story - perhaps even more so when the story includes altruism and today's youth picking up the gauntlet for cancer awareness. Thanks to the recognition of The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards and Valerie Cardaci for sharing this information, I have just the story for you.
Many of us, myself included, could learn a lesson from Teagan Stedman and Rachel Ehlers - both named the top youth volunteers for their states and recognized for volunteer efforts raising money and awareness to fight cancer.
A seventh grader living in California, Teagan Stedman raised $70,000 through his own inspiration. Teagan arranged a "battle of the bands", which he aptly named "Shredfest", to raise funds for pediatric cancer awareness. This 13 year-old managed to recruit 10 bands, judges and musical equipment donations to support the first concert. This dynamo isn't done - he's begun a nonprofit charity organization called "Shred Kids Cancer" and is planning the fifth annual Shredfest in April at the House of Blues.
Instead of goofing off during her eighth grade lunch period, 14 year-old Rachel Ehlers of Wyoming began selling cancer gear to raise money and cancer awareness within her middle school. Rachel raised $2000 - during her lunches - selling the trademark pink bandanas, bracelets, and other breast cancer fighting gear. Her marketing was such a success that she had to order more stock -- she sold out!
As the month for national colon cancer awareness comes to an end, I would like to give a giant "thank you" to volunteers everywhere who use their invaluable spare time to fight cancer. Please - don't let their efforts go to waste. Talk to your doctor about screening today and we may get to celebrate one less statistic tomorrow.
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The second most popular type of cancer - not popular good, popular common - in the United States is colon cancer. Although it's the second most deadly, responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths each year, it is also one of the most curable cancers,if caught early.
As a young child, do you remember worrying about a monster in your closet? I used to close my eyes and cover my head with a blanket thinking if I can't see it, it isn't really there. This is not a healthy attitude to take with colon cancer. Just because you cannot see it, doesn't mean it isn't there, growing.
The statistics are pretty sobering. According to the National Cancer Institute Surveillance Research Program, about one out of every 20 people will be diagnosed with colon cancer. Worse yet, many people will not have any outward symptoms until the cancer is in advanced stages. Simply put, by the time you recognize something may be wrong with your body, the cancer might have already spread and caused damage to other organs, such as the liver. This is the number one reason screening tests, which catch polyps and irregularities before they turn cancerous, are vital to maintaining your health.
Men and women, young and elderly - this disease knows no bounds. Although your risk for developing colorectal cancer increases as you age, it doesn't mean young adults are immune.
Rather than pulling the blanket over our heads, let's be proactive about our colorectal health this year and schedule a screening exam for colon cancer. The conversation will take a few minutes with your doctor and the colonoscopy a half-day of your time, as opposed to the potential months off of work for surgery, chemotherapy, and even radiation to treat colon cancer, once it's established.
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Yes, it's that time of the year again - this month we recognize colorectal cancer nationally. Last year, I joined a petition to the White House to "Turn the White House Blue." Although there weren't quite enough signatures, many people supported this effort. This year, my goals are not so largesse. This year, if I can reach even one person - encourage that one individual to make a doctor's appointment and discuss the screening tests for colorectal cancer - I have succeeded in my goal.
I've prepared a surprise for everyone fighting against colon cancer this month - a list of freebies! Who doesn't like getting something for nothing? Included are ways to obtain food, shelter, and even assistance with medical bills and housekeeping. Peruse the list and the websites at your leisure, but remember - these benefits are only available to cancer fighters.
Medical bills and missed work - and possibly even the sequestration - can impact your hard-earned savings. The following organizations might be able to help:
- Cancer Fund of America, Inc. ships packages to people and families fighting cancer that contain hygiene and toiletry items, household goods, and other products for free. You can enroll in their program by calling 1-800-578-5284 or visit them on the Web.
- Chris 4Life occasionally has grants available for qualified people fighting colorectal cancer. The money can be used for transportation to and from medical appointments, child care, and groceries. Contact them on the Web or by phone at 773-551-5434.
- Brenda Mehling Cancer Fund is a grant-based program that helps people ages 18 to 40. The usual grant offers about $600 that can be used for medical copayments, groceries, and even transportation to and from treatment. You can reach them at 661-310-7950 or on the Web.
- The Colon Cancer Alliance can help you find free ostomy supplies, education, and community resources. Contact them at 202-628-0123 or look for them on the Web.
- Heavenly Hats offers completely free hats to cancer survivors who have lost their hair following treatment. Find them on the Web.
- Cleaning for a Reason offers four monthly free house cleanings to women with cancer. Contact them at 877-337-3348 or on the Web.
- The Patient Advocate Foundation can help you deal with your insurance company to file a claim, complaint, or even assist in finding you health insurance if you have none. Find them on the Web.
A full list of supportive organizations can be found by following this link.
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If you are currently taking chemotherapy for colon cancer, your medical team probably informed you about the importance of good oral hygiene. It sounds innocuous, but taking cautious care of your mouth can make a huge difference in your treatment and comfort.
Recently, a friend of mine had a trifecta of mouth problems during her second round of chemotherapy. She had developed thrush (an oral yeast infection), mouth sores, and bleeding gums. Basically, everything that could go wrong in her mouth did. She was uncomfortable to say the least, couldn't tolerate food or liquid, and lost so much weight that her chemotherapy was put on hold.
Of course, this is a worst-case-scenario, but a wake-up call nonetheless. Although I always teach my patients about the importance of oral care, I began diligently researching the best ways to prevent mouth problems before, during and after chemotherapy. Most importantly, I've picked up pearls from colon cancer survivors and here's some of their collected wisdom in a nutshell:
- Purchase a soft-bristled toothbrush and toss the old one. Not only can a toothbrush collect germs, hard (and even medium) bristle brushes can make your gums bleed.
- Suck on ice chips throughout your intravenous chemotherapy session. Purportedly, this may help prevent mouth sores before they start.
- Rinse your mouth with warm saltwater after eating or drinking anything.
- Report any sores or mouth pain to your doctor immediately - he or she can order prescriptions to increase your comfort and maintain your ability to eat and drink.