Category Archives: Colorectal Disease
Most Americans are concerned about their health to some degree. And while there are certain diseases that rightly get plenty of attention, others, including those of the colon don’t get nearly as much press as they deserve. In fact, colon cancer is a leading killer of men and women in the United States, but it also represents one of the most preventable and treatable cancers. Unfortunately, however, many patients do not prioritize their colon health the way they should. Cancer is not the only concern when it comes to colon health. Several conditions that affect the colon can be disruptive, or in some cases, even life-threatening if left untreated. While gut health is often a sign of general health, there are certain foods we can eat and others to avoid to keep our guts as healthy as possible, even in our later years.
It is always exciting to see a familiar face on the television, which is why we are happy to see Dr. Creanfeatured on News 4 Jax. June is Men’s Health Month, and to bring awareness, Dr. Crean discussed colorectal screening and prevention.
Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disease that can affect the entire GI tract from beginning to end. This disease is classified as auto-immune which means that the body’s own immune system has turned on itself, attacking healthy tissue in addition to its normal role in attacking and controlling invading cells, such as cancer or bacteria. Unfortunately, Crohn’s disease does not have a cure, but there are many ways to manage it, one of which is medical therapy.
You may have seen advertisements for Humira – a blockbuster drug used in patients with moderate to severe Crohn’s disease that has not responded to other lifestyle and medical interventions. Humira has shown clinically significant improvement in remission rates when compared to placebo. For many patients, Humira remains a viable option for controlling a disease that may have plagued them for years.
Colon health is a big part of overall health. Not only are some of the diseases of the colon extremely disruptive, but many are preventable. In fact, colon cancer rates have increased as we, as a society, have increased our consumption of processed foods, refined sugars and empty carbohydrates. During the same time, our consumption of colon healthy fiber has decreased radically alongside lower consumption of whole, natural fruits and vegetables.
Probiotics have been touted as having incredible health benefits. This, on the surface, stands to reason because our gut is made up of billions of bacteria that work in harmony to digest food properly, maintain a normal metabolism and normalize colon and general intestinal function. But if simply downing a delicious drink from the supermarket to improve colon health sounds too good to be true, you’re right.
Some of our patients, especially those who have a family history of colon cancer or other cancers, are very nervous about their risk of developing cancer. And they are often justified in that fear as close family members who have had colon cancer, in turn, increase your risk of colon cancer as well. However, we have studied decades of colon cancer research and the result is solid guidelines on how to screen for the disease. For those with average risk, a colonoscopy every ten years, starting at the age of 45 is recommended. For those with above average risk, this interval may be much shorter and depends on the judgment of Dr. Crean or your primary care physician.
As we know, a colonoscopy is the most effective way to prevent colon cancer. Routine colonoscopiesstarting at 45 years old for those with average risk and repeated every ten years, can drastically reduce the risk of developing colon cancer by finding pre-cancerous polyps before they have a chance to become malignant. These colonoscopies, while dreaded by many, have reduced the rates of colon cancer cases and deaths over the past couple decades.
If polyps or pre-cancerous growth are found in the colon, colonoscopies can also remove these growths. This is all completed during the same procedure while the patient is sedated. But for some, regardless of their risk of colon cancer, polyps may return over and over again.
There are almost 150,000 cases of colon and rectal cancer each year, of which there are between 50,000 and 60,000 deaths. This makes colon cancer more deadly, in absolute terms, than breast cancer and prostate cancer. And yet, colon cancer is one of the most preventable and treatable diseases. Much of the increase in colon cancer occurrence is due to poor dietary and exercise habits that we, as a society, have adopted in the past several decades. Processed foods, amongst other poor dietary choices, have contributed to an obesity epidemic that has caused rates of colon cancer to increase dramatically through the mid-80s. Fortunately, better screening and education has mitigated some of this rise through the use of colonoscopy. As prevention is always better than even early treatment, here are our top five recommendations on reducing the risk of colon cancer.
In fairness, the title of this blog post is misleading, but we did so on purpose. We did so, very simply, because there’s never a time that blood in the stool should be ignored. Yet, over and over again, we see patients who have experienced blood in their stool, convinced themselves it is something minor and avoided coming to see their doctor or colorectal surgeon. The problem is, that something minor and very treatable today may progress to something more aggressive over time and can ultimately cause significant quality-of-life issues – even malignancy – and ultimately, fewer treatment options. While the only good option is visiting your doctor, following is an idea of the most common causes of blood in the stool and, ultimately, what should be done to address them.