You At Your Best

Allergies • April 2019

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SpECiAl TO NWA DEMOCrAT-GAzETTE With the goal of saving lives, Northwest Health has launched a campaign to help people prevent colorectal cancer. And, through the end of April, the health system is offering free ColoCARE kits for people ages 45+. It's the leading throw-in-the-bowl fecal occult blood test for detecting bleeding caused by gastrointestinal diseases. About 50,000 people die from colon cancer every year, according to the American Cancer Society. However, according to local physicians, this number should be much lower since colon cancer is the only cancer that can be prevented with a screening exam. That cancer screening exam is a colonoscopy, an internal examination of the colon (large intestine) and rectum, using a thin, flexible tube with a camera called a colonoscope. The doctor uses a video monitor to look for abnormalities such as ulcers, polyps, tumors, or areas of inflammation or bleeding. If any irregularities are found, they can be biopsied and/or removed. This outpatient procedure is used to screen for colon cancer or to evaluate symptoms such as abdominal pain, change in bowel habits or unexplained weight loss, among other symptoms. It can be completed in less than an hour and is performed under a mild sedation to prevent any discomfort. "The most common symptoms for colon cancer are abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, and change in bowel habits," said Dr. Ranga Balasekaran, a board- certified gastroenterologist who practices at Northwest Health. "But we don't want to just find colon cancer. We want to prevent it from happening in the first place. A lot of patients don't have any symptoms which is why we recommend screenings for patients who don't have any symptoms at all. That's how we catch cancers in their earliest stages, or before they even develop." Dr. Pardha Devaki, also a board- certified Gastroenterologist with Northwest Health, said more people would get screened if they understand how it could save their life and certain myths are dispelled. "Most people think colonoscopies are painful, but they're not," Dr. Devaki said. "People think you have to drink a lot of colon prep to clean your colon out. That's not true now. Most people think there are a lot of complications with colonoscopies, and that's not true when you are using a well- trained and experienced physician." Colonoscopy is recommended as the preferred screening test beginning at age 50 for people who are at average risk of colon cancer.* If it is normal, the recommendation is to repeat the colonoscopy after ten years. For those with certain risk factors, screenings should begin earlier and be performed more often. These risk factors include: • A personal or family history of colorectal cancer, or of certain types of polyps • A personal history of ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease • A history of radiation in the abdomen or pelvis, in treatment of previous cancer(s) • A genetic and hereditary colorectal cancer syndrome, such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or Lynch syndrome Lifestyle changes that can help prevent colon cancer including regular exercise, a healthy diet and eliminating smoking. "While mortality rates from colon cancer have been declining over the past 30 years, the number of new diagnoses in adults under age 50 is actually increasing," said Dr. Devaki. "This is both good news and bad news – we are doing a better job of screening for and removing polyps before they become cancerous, while lifestyle and other unknown factors are driving the risk and incidence of these cancers in young adults." Dr. Balasekaran added: "While colonoscopy remains the gold standard, there are several diagnostic and lab tools that can screen for the presence of blood in the stool (like the ColoCARE kit that Northwest Health is giving away this month). However, patients should be aware that an abnormal result in any of these tests MUST be followed by a full colonoscopy, in order to mitigate the increased risk of cancer, and to promptly remove any polyps. This fact should be considered by both patient and physician, before any of these lesser screening methods are used." "I would like to emphasize that colonoscopies are the only preventative test for colon cancer. The stool tests which check for blood are only detection tests," said Dr. Balasekaran. "Again, we don't want to just find colon cancer. We want to prevent it from happening in the first place. And that can only be accomplished by colonoscopy." Even though it is one of the most common forms of cancer, colon cancer is also highly preventable and treatable. Healthy diet and lifestyle choices, combined with proactive screening and prompt removal of any polyps, can dramatically reduce your risk of contracting or dying from this disease. Also, never ignore changes of any kind in your bowel habits – be prepared to share details with your physician, including frequency, consistency and any type of discomfort or dysfunction. The free ColoCARE kit cannot by itself diagnose colon cancer, but it can identify blood in the stool, which can be a symptom of cancer or other GI diseases. To conduct the test, you simply place a ColoCARE test pad in the toilet after a bowel movement, watch for a color change, then flush the pad away. To request the free ColoCARE kit, people who are ages 45+ may: • Drop by Northwest Health Urgent Care – Springdale at 4077 Elm Springs Road, Suite 105, Springdale • Email CommunityRelations@nw- • Call (479) 757-LIFE (5433) Colonoscopies are performed at three Northwest Health facilities, Northwest Medical Center-Bentonville, Northwest Medical Center-Springdale, and Siloam Springs Regional Hospital. For a physician referral, call (800) 734-2024. *The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends beginning colonoscopy screenings at age 50. In 2018, the American Cancer Society changed its guidelines to begin colonoscopy screenings at age 45. Free ColoCARE kits being given away as part of Colorectal Cancer Education Campaign Northwest Health campaign seeking to save lives "We don't want to just find colon cancer. We want to prevent it from happening in the first place. And that can only be accomplished by colonoscopy." ~ Dr. ranga Balasekaran 4 | YOU AT YOUR BEST | nwAdg.cOm/YOUATYOURBEST ApRil - AllERgiES | SATURdAY, mARch 30, 2019

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