colorectal cancer

Take Action to Prevent Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancer doesn’t get the same amount of attention as some high-profile cancers, but it should. Many women are surprised to learn that colorectal cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the United States and the second leading cause of death from cancer. Found most often in individuals who are 50 and older, this common form of cancer is highly preventable. In fact, six out of 10 deaths from colorectal cancer could be prevented with regular screening.

Colorectal Cancer Screening Saves Lives

Screening for colorectal cancer can help find cancer at an early stage and decrease your chance of dying from it. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends screening colonoscopy beginning at age 50 and continuing until age 75 years. Women who are at a higher risk of developing this form of cancer should be screened at a younger age and may need more frequent screening.

The colonoscopy procedure is painless with a low risk of complications. Written instructions, provided by your doctor, prescribe a solution required to cleanse the colon. Fortunately, colonoscopy prep has improved over the years and the days of consuming large amounts of an unpleasant tasting laxative prior to the procedure are over. During the colonoscopy, your physician looks at the interior walls of the rectum and colon with a flexible, lighted tube called a colonoscope. If polyps are discovered, samples of tissue may be collected for closer examination and polyps can be removed.

“Simply put, screening colonoscopy saves lives,” says Dr. David Rivadeneira, Director of Colon and Rectal Surgery at Huntington Hospital. “Colorectal cancer is extremely prevalent, yet screening is fast and very safe with a very low complication rate.”

Colorectal Screening Tests

While colonoscopy remains the gold standard screening test for colorectal cancer, there are new tests now being introduced that use advanced DNA technology to find elevated levels of altered DNA which could be associated with cancer or pre-cancer. These tests include Cologuard, which is a single stool sample kit that patients can use at home.

Other colorectal cancer screening tests that are currently available include:

  • High-sensitivity fecal occult blood test – Checks for hidden blood in stool samples.
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy – Looks at the interior walls of the rectum and part of the colon.

It’s important to discuss with your doctor which test is best for your specific needs.

What Else Can You Do to Prevent Colorectal Cancer?

Along with getting regular screenings for colorectal cancer, there are also lifestyle decisions you can make to lower your risk.

  • Don’t smoke
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Get regular exercise
  • Drink alcohol only moderately, if not at all
  • Limit red meat, especially processed meat
  • Get the daily recommended amount of calcium and vitamin D in your diet
  • Take a multivitamin with folate

Want to learn more about colorectal cancer prevention? At Katz Institute for Women’s Health, we’re here to answer your questions. Call the Katz Institute for Women’s Health Resource Center at 855-850-5494 to speak to a women’s health specialist. For questions about colorectal cancer and screenings, please contact Dr. David Rivadeneira at 631-470-1450.

Learning to Manage IBS Symptoms

Did you know that next to the common cold, dealing with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) — which affects about twice as many women as men — is the second-biggest reason for missed work days in this country? If you’ve woken up with abdominal pain or severe diarrhea that prevented you from leaving home, you are not alone.

Irritable bowel syndrome is a chronic intestinal condition common among individuals seeking medical attention. IBS is a group of symptoms and signs, not a single disease, and involves episodes of abdominal pain and alterations in bowel habits. It is frustrating for patients, as they suffer from varying degrees of painful symptoms, including abdominal cramping, diarrhea and/or constipation. The exact cause of IBS is not known, but several theories exist, including history of gastrointestinal infection, abnormalities of contractions in the intestinal walls, stress-related release of hormones that affect motility and certain food intolerances (intolerances to dairy products, beans and various vegetables have been studied).

IBS affects 10 percent of women between 15 and 35 years old and 8 percent of those between 35 and 45. The good news is that prevalence decreases after age 45. For many women, the stress of having stomach problems aggravates their gastrointestinal symptoms, which include bloating, heartburn, nausea and even non-GI symptoms such as frequent urination and painful periods.

So, while there is no cure for IBS, there are no long-term health complications related to it — and there is hope! If you have a better understanding of the condition and what affects it, you can minimize the symptoms that come with it.

Here are useful tips on managing IBS symptoms and avoiding flare-ups:

  • Eliminate dairy for at least two weeks
  • Keep a diary of foods that aggravate your gastrointestinal symptoms
  • Reduce stress
  • Eat a fiber-rich diet
  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Exercise

Keep in mind that it may be intolerance to carbohydrates or fatty foods — so pay attention to what you eat! Be sure to take these few steps toward better gastrointestinal health and a happier you.
Note: If you are experiencing chronic gastrointestinal discomfort, it is important to see your doctor to be sure that there is nothing more serious behind these symptoms.

Enjoy healthy food choices and refreshments with friends while Bethany DeVito, MD, and Robert E. Graham, MD, MPH, educate you on ways to maintain your digestive health at our upcoming Women’s Wellness Program: “What Your Gut Is Telling You” – Register here today!