Time To Talk Colon Cancer
Imagine if you could have a frank conversation with your friends and family about their colon health. It sounds like an odd idea, right? Let’s face it, the conversation about colorectal cancer isn’t always easy to have. After all, isn’t our digestive system something we usually leave to private conversations with medical professionals? Unfortunately, some people hesitate to discuss their colon even with their doctors. Perhaps this can all change though because alarming statistics show that Colon cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death in men and women, and the third most common cancer diagnosis. On top of that, alarmingly, an increasing number of young people are being diagnosed with the disease.
Strollin’ for the Colon is dedicated to changing these statistics, and helping people open up that dialogue with family members and have that otherwise potentially awkward conversation with your doctor- because it’s Time to Talk Colon Cancer!
The importance of knowing your family history
Dr. Danielle Marino discusses why knowing your family medical history can help you and your doctors understand your risk for colorectal cancer.
Colon Cancer and health disparities for African Americans
Wilhelmina Sizer, NP discusses Colon Cancer and health disparities for African Americans. According to the American Cancer Society, African Americans have the highest rate of death and the shortest rate of survival for colorectal cancer. In fact, African Americans are about 20% more likely to get colorectal cancer and about 40% more likely to die from it than most other groups.
When detected early with proper screening, colon cancer is 90% preventable. Why, then, are so many African Americans dying of colorectal diseases? The reasons for the differences are complex; but, they largely reflect differences in risk factors and in health care access. Socioeconomic factors place some African Americans at a disadvantage, making it harder to seek timely screening and treatment like a lack of (or less comprehensive) health insurance, and a lack of access to healthy and affordable foods. Education efforts about the importance of colon cancer screening, as well as breaking down barriers to access, are vital! It is as important as ever that everyone has access to and is receiving the recommended screenings. If you’re African-American, talk to your doctor now about your risks and screening for colorectal cancer!
Courtney's Story - The Importance of Talking to your Doctors
At the age of 35, Courtney S. was diagnosed with Stage IV Colon Cancer. Talking about Colon Cancer is important. It is #timetotalkcoloncancer because Courtney like so many others who have fought or are still fighting this disease are not alone! Talk with you family and talk with you doctors!
“I’ve always had bowel issues, usually on the loose stool side of the BM spectrum. But I was having constipation and blood in my stool for about 5-6 months and decided to get to the bottom of it. I reached out to my PCP and he decided to have me get a colonoscopy. I then saw a G.I. doctor who found a large golf ball sized tumor in my colon. I met with a colorectal surgeon who did bloodwork, CT scans and an MRI and discovered it was stage IV colon cancer that had spread to my liver. I was 35 years old.
Immediately my oncologist devised a plan of attack. I started six rounds of chemo then had surgery on the liver and colon and then six more rounds of chemo. The cancer came back in the liver about 3 months after my last chemo, so I had another surgery to remove 10% of the liver.
4 years later, I am cancer free and super grateful I got that colonoscopy. It saved my life. I could not keep ignoring what my body was telling me. ”
Why the screening guidelines changed to 45 yrs old
Dr. Melissa Hershman, Gastroenterologist at the University of Rochester Medical Center, discusses why The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends that adults be screened for colorectal cancer starting at age 45, and why this is so important.
A screening test is used to look for a disease when a person doesn’t have symptoms. (When a person has symptoms, diagnostic tests are used to find out the cause of the symptoms.) Colorectal cancer almost always develops from precancerous polyps (abnormal growths) in the colon or rectum. Screening tests can find precancerous polyps, so that they can be removed before they turn into cancer. Screening tests can also find colorectal cancer early, when treatment works best. Regular screening, beginning at age 45, is the key to preventing colorectal cancer and finding it early.
Healthy choices that can help reduce your risk
There are a number of risk factors for colon cancer. While some risk factors for colon cancer you can’t control, there are some that you can. Dr. Danielle Marino, Gastroenterologist at the University of Rochester Medical Center shares how making healthier choices in your everyday life can help reduce many of these risks. Understanding your risk factors for colon cancer can help you keep healthy habits and have more-informed discussions with your doctor about colorectal cancer screening, because colorectal cancer is preventable and, if detected early, treatable and beatable.
A personal story of why colorectal cancer screening is important
Vicki Howard, PA at the University of Rochester Medical Center shares her story about how her family member’s diagnosis of Colon Cancer has impacted her and why colorectal cancer screening is so important. “It’s better to check and be sure!” Talk with your doctor about symptoms and your possible risks; and remember that screening saves lives!
Liver disease and Colon Cancer? How other medical conditions could increased your risk
We know there are a number of factors that increase the risk for developing colon cancer, some within a person’s control (like diet, alcohol, and smoking) and some not (like age, ethnicity, race, and genetics). However, did you know there are many other factors linked to an increased risk of developing colon cancer – like gallbladder removal, diabetes type 2, and even liver diseases? Dr. Marie Laryea, from the University of Rochester Medical Center, shares some insight into other medical conditions that can increase your risk for Colon Cancer.
Knowing the causes and risk factors for colon cancer can help you understand the importance of routine screening for colon cancer, as well as learn if you should begin screening at an earlier age. Talk with your doctor today about your risks.
Colon polyps and why it's important to be screened
Dr. Mohammed Absar Ullah, Gastroenterologist at the University of Rochester Medical Center, answers some questions about colon polyps and colon cancer. Colon polyps are a small clump of cells that forms on the lining of the colon or rectum. Most are harmless; but some can develop into cancer. Colon polyps often don’t cause symptoms.
Regular screening tests, such as colonoscopy, can help ensure that polyps are identified and removed before they can develop into cancer. This is why routine screening is so important. Remember to talk to your doctor about screening.
Colon Cancer and the Importance of Knowing Your Family Health History
Dr. Arthur DeCross, Gastroenterologist at the University of Rochester Medical Center talks about the importance of being your own advocate for your family health history. Your family members may share genes, habits, and environments that can affect your risk of getting cancer. Take time to ask about your family history of cancer at family gatherings. Write it down and talk with you doctor about it. It will help you and your doctor decide what tests you need, when to start, and how often to be tested. Knowing your family health history also helps you and your doctor decide if genetic counseling or testing may be right for you.
A "Behind The Scenes" View into Colonoscopies
Joanne Schafer, a procedure nurse at URMC Gastroenterology, shares a “behind the scenes” view into colonoscopies. Many people – perhaps even you – are anxious or fearful before a medical procedure, especially if you’re worried your doctor may find cancer. We understand that colorectal cancer screening can seem intimidating; but put all that “behind” you (pun intended) and do not hesitate to talk to your health care provider and ask questions, especially if you’re feeling anxious. #getscreened #coloncancerawareness
Reality, Resilience, and Hope - a Message from Dr. DeCross
Dr. Arthur DeCross shared this important message at our Toni’s Race event on September 11th, 2021 — a message about reality, resilience, and hope. People and families experience this everyday – which should be talked about – a valid anger, fear, and sadness one can experience with being diagnosed with colon cancer. Our community hears it and understands. There is a light of hope for prevention, detection, and treatment. Together we can find hope!
“We can’t help but reflect on the date today – Sept 11th, and it has been 20 years since the terrible events of that day. Our imaginations can’t really hold it – we shake our heads at the scale of the tragedy – almost 3000 lives lost in the terrorist attack. Twenty times the size of this crowd. That is a day that affect us so very deeply. It makes us sad, angry, even anxious. There is an injustice – that the day can end so very differently than how it began. This wasn’t part of the plan.
Every. Single. Week. Every single week in the United States – 3000 people have a day that starts in good health, and ends with a diagnosis of colon cancer. They bring that news home. Every. Single. Week. Every single week in our country – 1000 people die from colon cancer. That wasn’t part of the plan either.
Shockingly – those numbers are much better than 30 years ago – colon cancer screening has been saving countless lives – but for so many, they didn’t know, or they didn’t start early enough. This is a beatable cancer. With education, research, and screening, we can beat this cancer, and that’s why you heroes are here today. ”
Family History, Genetics and a link to Colon Cancer?
Carol Lustig, NP at the Hereditary Clinic at Pluta Cancer Center shares about how genetics can affect your risk for Colon Cancer. Most colorectal cancers are found in people without a family history of colorectal cancer. Still, as many as 1 in 3 people who develop colorectal cancer have other family members who have had it.
If you have a family history of adenomatous polyps or colorectal cancer, talk with your doctor about the possible need to start screening before age 45. It’s also important to tell your close relatives so that they can pass along that information to their doctors and start screening at the right age.
About 5% of people who develop colorectal cancer have inherited gene changes (mutations) that cause family cancer syndromes and can lead to them getting the disease. The most common inherited syndromes linked with colorectal cancers are Lynch syndrome (hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer, or HNPCC) and familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP), but other rarer syndromes can increase colorectal cancer risk, too. If you have a family history of colorectal cancer, talk with your doctor. You might benefit from speaking with a genetic counselor or other health professional who is trained in genetic counseling. They can review your family history to see how likely it is that you have a family cancer syndrome. The counselor can also help you decide if genetic testing is right for you. If you have testing and are found to have an abnormal gene, there might be steps you can take to help lower your risk of colorectal cancer.
A Patient's Perspective on Genetic Testing - "Another tool in the tool box"
Susan Rhody-Sherman shares how her history of cancer, and genetic testing helped give her doctors key info towards her health plan. Susan is a member of the Hereditary Clinic Support Group, and advocate for genetic testing. Her diagnosis of Lynch syndrome, she knows can greatly increase her risk for colorectal cancer among other cancers too – and having that knowledge helps her and her doctors plan and screen for them better.
But genetic testing, and her diagnosis doesn’t define Susan. As she phrases it, it’s just another “tool in the tool box” she can give her doctors. She keeps a positive attitude and keeps herself busy with community activities. She is part of a sewing group in her community that has donated over 18,000 masks to hospitals and schools, and makes bears to send to Golisano Children’s Hospital patients.
If you have a family history of cancer, talk with your doctor. You might benefit from speaking with a genetic counselor or other health professional who is trained in genetic counseling. They can review your family history to see how likely it is that you have a family cancer syndrome. The counselor can also help you decide if genetic testing is right for you. If you have testing and are found to have an abnormal gene, there might be steps you can take to help lower your risk of colorectal cancer, such as starting routine screening at an earlier age.
‘We All Have That Power’ Rochester City Council Vice President Willie Lightfoot Gets Screened for Colorectal Cancer
Rochester City Council Vice President Willie Lightfoot knows first hand the devastation cancer can cause. His father died from stomach cancer and as a pastor, he’s counseled many after a cancer diagnosis. When he learned he was eligible for colorectal cancer screening at age 45 – a procedure that could help him potentially have more time with his family – he decided to get screened.
“For me, that encouraged me to want to go and get this type of test, and any other preventive cancer type screening, because of my family history,” he says.
But that doesn’t mean he came to the decision without any hesitations.
“Going into that, there’s a fear. Am I going to get bad news? And I know a lot of people, that’s why they don’t want to do these types of screenings,” he says. “Being someone who’s never been under anesthesia, never spent a night in a hospital, never had something like this done before, those were extreme challenges and barriers that I had to overcome personally.”
In September, Lightfoot had his first screening colonoscopy, during which gastroenterologist Danielle Marino, M.D., removed three polyps. Tests showed the polyps were not pre-cancerous, and Lightfoot doesn’t need another screening colonoscopy for 10 years, as long as his family history remains the same.
“I actually was preventive and proactive in my healthcare,” he says, “and we all have that power.” Now, in his roles as pastor, barbershop owner, city leader and community member, he is spreading the word.
“My job then is to go and say ‘I was able to do it and was successful at it. You can, too,’” he says. “You can take the reins, get the wheel and drive your healthcare when it comes to this, and be preventive and if there’s something there, you can take control to have that removed. And that’s empowering.”