Wellness Wednesday: Colorectal Cancer Screenings Save Lives

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. No one wants to talk about it; but colorectal cancer screening saves lives. If you’re 50 years old or older, talk to your doctor about getting screened.

AA couple bicyclesColorectal cancer (cancer of the colon or rectum) is the second leading cause of cancer deaths, among cancers that affect both men and women, in the U.S. Every year, about 140,000 Americans are diagnosed with colorectal cancer, and more than 50,000 people die from it. But this disease is highly preventable, by getting screened beginning at age 50.


About 1 in 3 adults between 50 and 75 years old–about 23 million people–are not getting tested as recommended.


What You Can Do

  • If you’re aged 50 to 75, get screened for colorectal cancer. Screenings help prevent colorectal cancer by finding precancerous polyps so they can be removed. Screening also finds this cancer early, when treatment can be most effective.
  • Be physically active.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Don’t drink too much alcohol.
  • Don’t smoke.

Fast Factsccs_ads_300x250_final2

  • Risk increases with age. More than 90% of colorectal cancers occur in people aged 50 and older.
  • Precancerous polyps and colorectal cancer don’t always cause symptoms, especially at first. You could have polyps or colorectal cancer and not know it. That is why having a screening test is so important. If you have symptoms, they may include—
    • Blood in or on the stool.
    • Stomach pain, aches, or cramps that do not go away.
    • Losing weight and you don’t know why.
    • These symptoms may be caused by something other than cancer. If you have any of them, see your doctor.
  • Some people are at a higher risk than others for developing colorectal cancer. If you think you may be at high risk, talk to your doctor about when and how often to get tested.

Screenings Tests

There are several screening test options. Talk with your doctor about which is right for you.

  • Colonoscopy (every 10 years).
  • High-sensitivity fecal occult blood test (FOBT), stool test or fecal immunochemical test (FIT) (every year).
  • Sigmoidoscopy (every 5 years, with FOBT every three years).

eightyby2018

Mercy Health System has joined with more than 1,000 organizations who have pledged to work together to increase the nation’s colorectal cancer screening rates and embrace the goal of reaching 80% screened for colorectal cancer by 2018.

80% by 2018 was developed through the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable (NCCR) initiative with the goal of screening 80% of those aged 50 and older for colorectal cancer by the year 2018. The NCCR was co-founded by the American Cancer Society and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


If we can achieve 80% by 2018, 277,000 fewer people will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer and 203,000 lives will be saved by 2030.


eightyby2018_emblem-01
Across the country, approximately 1 in 3 adults, around 23 million people aged 50 and 75 years old are not getting screened for colorectal cancer as recommended. Within the Mercy Health System service area alone, 33% of adults have not received colorectal screenings in the past 10 years.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


More Information

NCCR: 80% by 2018

Colorectal Cancer Screening Fact Sheet

Colorectal Cancer Screening Saves Lives

Vital Signs: Colorectal Cancer Tests Save Lives

Wellness Wednesday: Screening for Cervical Cancer

As we said last week, more than 12,000 women in the U.S. are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year. Cervical cancer is the second most common type of cancer for women worldwide. But since it is usually slow developing, it is one of the most preventable types of cancer.

prevent-cervical-cancerJust this week, we learned that Erin Andrews, Fox sportscaster and co-host of ABC’s Dancing with the Stars, had surgery for cervical cancer last fall. Her cancer was discovered during a routine exam, after which she had two surgical procedures and was given the all clear by her physician.

This highlights the importance of routine screenings for all women. With the proper screening and routine examinations, this type of cancer can be found in its early stages, and women can make a complete recovery.

Cervical cancer usually develops slowly over time. Before cancer appears in the cervix, the cells of the cervix go through changes known as dysplasia, in which abnormal cells begin to appear in the cervical tissue. Over time, the abnormal cells may become cancer cells and start to grow and spread more deeply into the cervix and to surrounding areas.

What is Cervical Cancer Screening?

Early cervical cancer may not cause signs or symptoms. Women should have regular check-ups, including tests to check for human papillomavirus (HPV) or abnormal cells in the cervix.

  • A Pap test (or Pap smear) looks for pre-cancers or cell changes on the cervix that might become cervical cancer if they are not treated appropriately.
  • The HPV test looks for the virus (human papillomavirus) that can cause these cell changes.

A Pap test is recommended for all women between the ages of 21 and 65 years old, and can be done in a doctor’s office or clinic. During the Pap test, the doctor will collect a few cells and mucus from the cervix and the area around it. The cells are then placed on a slide or in a bottle of liquid and sent to a laboratory. If you get the HPV test along with the Pap test, the cells collected during the Pap test will be tested for HPV at the laboratory.

Screening Recommendations

jo2012041201The American Cancer Society recommends that all women begin cervical cancer testing screening at age 21. Women aged 21 to 29, should have a Pap test every 3 years. HPV testing should not be used for screening in this age group.

The Pap test, which screens for cervical cancer, is one of the most reliable and effective cancer screening tests available. However, it only screens for cervical cancer, and cannot detect uterine, ovarian or other reproductive cancers.

Women age 30-65 should be screened with a Pap test combined with an HPV test every 5 years or tested every 3 years with just the Pap test. Women who are at high risk for cervical cancer should be screened more often. You should speak to your doctor to determine your risk.

Women over 65 years of age who have had regular screenings in the previous 10 years should stop cervical cancer screening as long as they haven’t had any serious pre-cancers found in the last 20 years.

Low Cost Screenings

The National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP) provides breast and cervical cancer early detection testing to low-income, underserved, under-insured, and uninsured women in the U.S.

If you are looking for a Mercy Health System gynecologist, please visit our website and use our Find a Doctor tool.

Sources: National Cancer Institute, American Cancer Society, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)


More Information:

National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP)

American Cancer Society Screening Guidelines

Testing for Cervical Cancer [PDF]

Wellness Wednesday: Screening for Colorectal Cancer

Senior African American couple with bicyclesWe are making progress in the war against colorectal cancer. Death rates from the disease have been dropping since the early 1990s, and incidence rates have been declining steadily over the past decade in both men and women. These are great strides that can be attributed to prevention and early detection through screening and increasingly effective treatment.

However, there is still more to be done.

Many people do not realize that simply aging can make you more at risk for developing colon cancer and that early colon cancer usually doesn’t cause symptoms. But there are steps you can take to reduce your risk for the disease. Colorectal cancer is one of only a few cancers that can be prevented because colorectal cancer screening allows doctors to find and remove hidden growths (called “polyps”) before they become cancer. Removing polyps can prevent cancer altogether.

BlueStar1In fact, researchers believe that half of colorectal cancer deaths could potentially be prevented if everyone age 50 and older received recommended screenings.* Mercy Health System supports National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month every March. So what can you do to make a difference?

  • Once you turn 50 it is important that you talk to your doctor about getting screened regularly for colon cancer. Talk to your doctor sooner if you have a family history of the disease or other condition that puts you at increased risk.
  • Take the time to learn the facts about colorectal cancer. Visit www.NCCRT.org for information and links to resources.
  • Talk to your friends and family about the importance of getting screened for colorectal cancer starting at age 50 and other ways to help prevent the disease, like not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising, eating less red meat, and consuming alcohol in moderation or not at all. You can help save lives.
  • Wear the Blue Star, which represents the eternal memory of those whose lives have been lost to colorectal cancer and the shining hope for a future free of the disease. Contact groups like the Colon Cancer Alliance, Fight Colorectal Cancer or the American Cancer Society to get Blue Star pins and show your support.
  • Each time you see the Blue Star, remember and share the facts—colorectal cancer is preventable, treatable and beatable.

*Colditz G., Atwood K., Emmons K., et al, For the Risk Index Working Group, Harvard Center for Cancer Prevention. Harvard Report on Cancer Prevention

Volume 4: Harvard Cancer Risk Index. Cancer Causes Control. 2000;11(6):477-488

Wellness Wednesday: November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month

Lung cancer is the #1 cancer killer of women in the United States.

lung_cancer_awarenessLung cancer is the second most common cancer in both men and women (not counting skin cancer), and is by far the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women. Each year, more people die of lung cancer than of colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined.

Most lung cancers could be prevented, because they are related to smoking (or secondhand smoke), or less often to exposure to radon, asbestos or other environmental factors. The more cigarettes you smoke per day and the earlier you started smoking, the greater your risk of lung cancer. But some lung cancers occur in people without any known risk factors for the disease and it is not yet clear if these cancers can be prevented.

Common symptoms of lung cancer include:

  • Coughing that gets worse or doesn’t go away
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Coughing up blood
  • Feeling very tired all the time
  • Weight loss with no known cause

Prevention

QuitSmoking3Not all lung cancers can be prevented, but there are some ways you can reduce your risk of getting lung cancer. The best way to reduce risk is not to smoke and to avoid breathing in other people’s smoke.

If you stop smoking before a cancer develops, your damaged lung tissue gradually starts to repair itself. No matter what your age or how long you’ve smoked, quitting may lower your risk of lung cancer and help you live longer. People who stop smoking before age 50 cut their risk of dying in the next 15 years in half compared with those who continue to smoke.

Limiting your exposure to secondhand smoke might also help lower your risk of lung cancer, as well as some other cancers.

Radon is an important cause of lung cancer. You can reduce your exposure to radon by having your home tested and treated, if needed.

Avoiding exposure to known cancer-causing chemicals, in the workplace and elsewhere, may also be helpful (see “What are the risk factors for lung cancer?”). When people work where these exposures are common, they should be kept to a minimum. Be sure to follow proper safety procedures, such as wearing a respirator, if this applies at your workplace.

A healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables may also help reduce your risk of lung cancer. Some evidence suggests that a diet high in fruits and vegetables may help protect against lung cancer in both smokers and non-smokers. But any positive effect of fruits and vegetables on lung cancer risk would be much less than the increased risk from smoking.

Some people who get lung cancer do not have any clear risk factors. Although we know how to prevent most lung cancers, at this time we don’t know how to prevent all of them.

Early Detection and Screening

lungcancerMost lung cancers have already spread widely and are at an advanced stage when they are first found. These cancers are very hard to cure. But in recent years, doctors have found a test that can be used to screen for lung cancer in people at high risk of the disease. This test can help find some of these cancers early, which can lower the risk of dying from this disease.

American Cancer Society Screening Guidelines for lung cancer

Exams and tests to look for lung cancer

Diagnosis and Treatment

Doctors diagnose lung cancer using a physical exam, imaging and lab tests. Lung cancer is treated in several ways, depending on the type, stage, and how advanced it is. People with non-small cell lung cancer can be treated with surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, targeted therapy, or a combination of these treatments. People with small cell lung cancer are usually treated with radiation therapy and chemotherapy.

  • Surgery. An operation where doctors cut out cancer tissue.
  • Chemotherapy. Using special medicines to shrink or kill the cancer. The drugs can be pills you take or medicines given in your veins, or sometimes both.
  • Radiation therapy. Using high-energy rays (similar to X-rays) to kill the cancer.
  • Targeted therapy. Using drugs to block the growth and spread of cancer cells. The drugs can be pills you take or medicines given in your veins.

Sources: American Cancer Society, NIH: National Cancer Institute and The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).


More Information

How the American Cancer Society Fights Lung Cancer
CDC: Lung Cancer Awareness
Free to Breathe
National Cancer Institute

Wellness Wednesday: Breast Cancer Facts and Risk Factors

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Mercy Health System wants you to know the facts about breast cancer and understand that early detection is the key to survival.

Facts about Breast Cancer in the United States

  • BreastCancerOne in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime.
  • Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women.
  • Breast cancer is the second leading cause of death among women.
  • Each year it is estimated that over 220,000 women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer and more than 40,000 will die.
  • Although breast cancer in men is rare, an estimated 2,150 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer and approximately 410 will die each year.
  • Most breast cancers are found in women who are 50 years old or older, but breast cancer also affects younger women. About 11 percent of all new cases of breast cancer in the United States are found in women younger than 45 years of age.

BreastCancer2A Global Burden

According to the World Health Organization, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women worldwide, claiming the lives of hundreds of thousands of women each year and affecting countries at all levels of modernization.

Good News about Breast Cancer Trends

In recent years, perhaps coinciding with the decline in prescriptive hormone replacement therapy after menopause, we have seen a gradual reduction in female breast cancer incidence rates among women aged 50 and older. Death rates from breast cancer have been declining since about 1990, in part to better due to screening and early detection, increased awareness, and continually improving treatment options.

Factors That Decrease Breast Cancer Risk

  • Being older when you first had your menstrual period.
  • Starting menopause at an earlier age.
  • Giving birth to more children, being younger at the birth of your first child, and breastfeeding your children.
  • Getting regular exercise.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight.

Factors That Increase Breast Cancer Risk

  • Long-term use of hormone replacement therapy.
  • Personal history of breast cancer or non-cancerous breast diseases.
  • Family history of breast cancer (on either your mother’s or father’s side of the family).
  • Treatment with radiation therapy to the breast/chest.
  • Dense breasts by mammogram.
  • Drinking alcohol.
  • Night-shift work.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)


For National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Mercy Health System colleagues participated in our first Pink Glove Dance. Take a look!