Residents of Mount Vernon and surrounding Linn County are encouraged to learn more about colorectal screening methods, which can often catch and treat cancers early, thereby reducing the need for hospice care, or other palliative care services.
The team at Above and Beyond Home Health Care is happy to be a resource for residents of Mount Vernon, Cedar Rapids or other Eastern Iowa communities who want to learn more about this common cancer, ways to spot some of the possible signs of it, and common methods that often are able to keep it from becoming fatal.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. More than 50,000 people die of it annually, and about 140,000 people are diagnosed with it every year.
This type of cancer, which involves the colon or rectum, can affect men and women. The risk is believed to increase by age, although lifestyle (smoking, obesity, significant alcohol use, etc.) and genetics/family history may also play a role. The CDC estimates that 90 percent of all colorectal cancers are found in patients age 50 or older.
Even though it is a common type of cancer, early detection and treatment methods have proven effective in many people. At the same time, people who didn’t receive any assistance or consider screening services are more likely to have more severe symptoms, even death.
A health provider can aid in describing different testing methods and assessing someone’s symptoms to put a diagnosis together. In some cases, he or she may involve an oncologist or another medical specialty position, since some of the symptoms of colorectal cancer can be similar to other types of cancer or other health conditions, such as blood in bowel movements, noticeable weight loss or severe stomach pain.
But a preventive health screening is recommended even before any signs are seen. Many doctors or other providers recommend beginning these at age 50 and go least until age 75. People with higher risk, such as someone with family history or past cancers, may even be asked to have one prior to age 50.
Types of testing may vary, but generally, these take place every 5 or 10 years, unless someone’s risk factor change, their health changes or and their provider recommends it. A provider can also recommend certain testing methods and should discuss which ones he or she is most comfortable with and which ones the patient is comfortable with.
Testing methods can include:
- A colonoscopy, where a long, thick tube with a light at the end is inserted in the patient’s rectum. This looks at the entire colon for polyps, potentially cancerous tissue or items that don’t belong. It can scrape them away, which will provide a sample for analysis and also removes them and keeps them from growing. This is recommended at least every 10 years.
A sigmoidoscopy, which is a shorter, thinner tube that looks closely at the rectum and the bottom third of the colon for any polyps or unusual tissue. This is recommended every five years.
- A CT Colonography uses computer imagery and X-rays to create an image of the entire colon. This allows the provider to examine it on their monitor and is less invasive for the patient.
- Stool tests. Another possible indicator is the presence of blood or cancer cells in a patient’s stool. Patients receive test kits which they can sent to their doctor or a lab, which analyze the contents. These are usually recommended every 1-3 years.
This month is an excellent time to learn more about the health condition plus prevention and treatment methods of colorectal cancer. The Colorectal Cancer Alliance, a non-profit organization dedicated to advocating prevention, research and general support to people with the disease, those who may be at risk and their loved ones, has dedicated all of March to be National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.
Though it’s important to be aware and supportive throughout the year, the alliance has put a good deal of effort into coming up with ways people can be involved in March. One easy thing is to wear blue all month or at least on a certain day, and let people know the reason and that you support cancer prevention efforts and the importance of screenings.
The Colorectal Cancer Alliance also encourages people to put some kind of even or fundraiser together in their communities. It also offers posters and educational materials for people to use to help spread the word.
The CDC also offers a wide variety of resources for Mount Vernon residents to help get the word out.
Home health can help
The staff at Above and Beyond Home Health Care has been working with patients with different health conditions throughout Eastern Iowa for years, including many of them with colorectal cancer. Some are receiving palliative care and others have progressed to hospice care. We’re happy to help all patients, as well as those who want to consider screening methods or connect with providers who can assist them.