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Types of Hemorrhoids: An Overview

Hemorrhoids occur when veins in your rectum dilate and become swollen. Blood pools in the swelling veins, making your veins stretch into your rectal and anal tissue membranes. Often times hemorrhoids can feel quite uncomfortable. While you can’t always see or feel a hemorrhoid, when they fill with blood and enlarge, they can look and feel like a small knob or lump.

Hemorrhoids are extremely common, affecting millions of people across the United States. In fact, the vast majority of people who have hemorrhoids do not even know they have them. While a small number of people have symptoms, an even smaller amount seeks out treatment. 

What Causes Hemorrhoids?

While doctors often do not know why certain people end up having hemorrhoids, many people end up with them following an increase in pressure on the veins in the rectum area. Things that may cause this type of pressure include:

  • Constipation followed by straining during bowel movements
  • Sitting on the toilet for extended periods of time
  • Diarrhea and overuse of laxatives
  • Pregnancy (when the baby puts pressure on your veins, or while pushing during childbirth), and 
  • Sitting for extended periods of time during long air flights, road trips, or in office work environments that are highly sedentary. 

Hemorrhoids tend to be more likely if you do not get enough fiber in your diet, and if you are overweight. They are also more common with age.

The majority of adults will experience a hemorrhoid at some point in life. While all hemorrhoids are similar, there are some variations. Follow along to learn more about the different kinds of hemorrhoids.

Common Types of Hemorrhoids

1. Internal Hemorrhoids are a type of hemorrhoid that is located inside your rectum. Oftentimes they are not visible, and frequently they disappear without any treatment. Some of the time, an internal hemorrhoid may swell up and when this happens, it may rise out of your anus. When this occurs it is referred to as a prolapsed hemorrhoid.

Many times you do not even know if you have an internal hemorrhoid because there aren’t nerves that identify pain in this part of your body. It may be something that comes to your attention when your physician makes note of it following a colonoscopy or childbirth. If hemorrhoids expand in size, you may experience more symptoms that are typical of larger hemorrhoids. This can include a protrusion that you can actually feel as a soft lump, along with burning, cutting or itching sensations and sometimes severe pain.

When you go to the bathroom, feces passing through your rectal area may agitate internal hemorrhoids which can cause some bleeding that you may see on toilet paper. Please note: Any kind of rectal bleeding can be a sign of other more serious health problems, so it is always advisable to discuss this symptom with your doctor.

2. Prolapsed Hemorrhoid is a term used to describe internal hemorrhoids that have swollen and may appear outside of your anus. This type of hemorrhoid, which appears like a swollen lump, may be visible with a mirror. Some people do not experience any symptoms with prolapsed hemorrhoids, while others 

Often physicians are able to assign a grade to a prolapsed hemorrhoid, depending on severity. 

  • Grade one hemorrhoids are not prolapsed in any way.
  • Grade two hemorrhoids are prolapsed but also retract on their own. They may protrude from your anus at certain times like if you are straining during a bowel movement.
  • Grade three prolapsed hemorrhoids stick out of your anus and require you to push them back in yourself. It is possible if you are experiencing this, you may want to consider some type of treatment to avoid possible infections and/or to limit discomfort.
  • Grade four hemorrhoids are large enough that you cannot easily manually push them back into your anus without a significant amount of pain and discomfort. In these cases, it is highly advisable that you consult with your physician to explore treatment options.

3. External Hemorrhoids appear on your anus. You can’t always see them, but if you are able, they tend to appear like lumps. External hemorrhoids are typically not a serious issue, unless they cause you discomfort that negatively affects your daily life. The symptoms of external hemorrhoids tend to be similar to other types, including pain while going to the bathroom – especially if straining, doing certain activities, and sitting (especially on hard surfaces) for prolonged periods.

4. Thrombosed Hemorrhoids can cause people a lot of discomfort. This type of hemorrhoid contains a thrombosis or a blood clot within the tissue of the hemorrhoid. They often look and feel like small lumps around your anus. Thrombosed hemorrhoids are complications associated with hemorrhoids where blood clots appear. They can happen with both external and internal hemorrhoids, though more commonly with external. If you are experiencing one, you may have difficulty sitting, walking or going to the bathroom without discomfort. You may also notice redness along with a blue color around the hemorrhoid area.

If you are experiencing discomfort from hemorrhoids, the experienced team of medical professionals at Gastroenterology Health Partners is here for you using the most advanced treatment options available. For more information or to schedule an appointment, contact Gastroenterology Health Partners today at a location near you. 

Identifying Different Types of Colorectal Polyps

What Are Polyps?

Polyps are small growths of abnormal tissue, found projecting from the inner lining of the colon (large intestine). Polyps can range in size from a few millimeters to several centimeters. Polyps are very common: In fact, an estimated 25 to 40% of Americans over the age of 50 develop colon polyps. While developing polyps is most associated with being 50 and older, other factors are also considered including: having a family history of polyps/colon cancer, being obese, smoking, heavy alcohol consumption, a history of inflammatory bowel diseases, a poor diet, and other environmental factors. 

The vast majority of polyps are harmless, but they can also be precancerous or cancerous in nature. Polyps can take a long time to become cancerous, and are best to be removed upon identification. During a medical exam or colonoscopy, your doctor may identify and remove polyps. Larger or complex polyps are more likely to be cancerous, and can require additional procedures to remove. Colon polyps rarely cause any symptoms, which means scheduling a colorectal screening test is vital for identification.

Identifying Types of Polyps

There are two main categories of polyps: nonneoplastic and neoplastic. Neoplastic polyps are typically precancerous or cancerous, while nonneoplastic polyps are usually benign (non-cancerous). Within these categories, there are many types of polyps. Some of the most common include:

Types of Neoplastic Polyps

  • Adenomatous polyps (Adenoma): The most common type of polyp as well as the most common cause of colon cancer. Structurally, they’re described as tubular, villous, or tubulovillous. Tubular adenoma is less likely to develop into cancer, and makes up 70% of adenomatous polyps. Villous adenoma is flatter and more difficult to remove, and makes up 15% of adenomatous polyps. Tubulovillous is a mix of the two.
  • Serrated polyps: Serrated polyps cause 20-30% of colon cancers. They are divided into two categories: sessile serrated adenoma (SSA) and traditional serrated adenoma (TSA). SSA’s and TSA’s are very rare and almost always precancerous. 

Types of Nonneoplastic Polyps

  • Inflammatory polyps: Typically found in people with Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Usually benign.
  • Hamartomatous polyps: Rare. Usually caused by autosomal disorders. 
  • Hyperplastic polyps: A form of serrated polyp, but are very common and almost always benign. 

Polyp Shapes

Polyps generally grow in three different shapes: pedunculated, sessile, and flat. Pedunculated (polypoid) polyps grow out from the side of the inner lining of the colon like mushrooms, a clump of tissue on a thin stalk. Sessile polyps, on the other hand, do not have a stalk, but rather grow against the side of the colon. The least common shape is a flat polyp. Flat polyps grow completely flat, or depressed into the side of the colon. Sessile and flat polyps are generally more difficult to detect than pedunculated polyps.

Symptoms of Polyps

There are typically no signs of polyps. However, in some rare cases, they can be associated with symptoms such as:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Blood in stool
  • Diarrhea 
  • Constipation
  • Anemia caused by internal bleeding
  • Weakness or tiredness caused by anemia
  • Weight loss
  • Changes in bowel habits
  • Changes in stool color

Diagnosis and Treatment

If you experience any symptoms of colorectal polyps, it’s recommended that you consult a medical professional as soon as possible. Otherwise, most polyps will be diagnosed and treated through a screening test, like a colonoscopy or flexible sigmoidoscopy. In some cases, polyps are too large or complex to be removed immediately and require further surgical procedures.

It’s also important to note that if you have a neoplastic polyp, like an adenoma or a serrated polyp identified and removed during your screening test, you’re still at an increased risk of developing cancer, and will need regular screenings for polyps. The type, amount, and size of the polyps identified will determine how often you need a screening. This can vary from 6 months to 10 years

The experienced team at GHP has years of experience treating patients with various GI conditions including colorectal polyps. We can help establish the best plan of care for your situation. Contact any of our office locations to learn about the options we offer and to schedule an appointment today.

 

Importance of Colon Screening in Younger Adults – Dr. Sohi Interviewed

Dr. Sunana Sohi of Gastroenterology Health Partners was recently featured in a WHAS-11 article and video about the increasing rates of colon cancer in younger adults.

The story featured Amanda Blackburn, a 37 year-old mother of two who was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer in 2017. She received a diagnosis after coming to Dr. Sohi with her symptoms of rectal bleeding and a change in bowel habits.

Blackburn had no family history of colon cancer and knew very little about the disease, like many younger adults. “It wasn’t on my radar. The ‘C’ word wasn’t a thing for me,” she said.

Dr. Sohi was able to help Blackburn receive diagnosis and treatment.

“If you have symptoms, don’t wait. There are a lot of tests that can be done, including stool tests, but the number one, the gold standard is colonoscopy. That’s because it’s not only diagnostic but preventative, where we can find and remove small polyps before they become cancer,” Dr. Sohi said.

Read the rest of the Dr. Sohi’s write-up here.

Colon Cancer is not a disease of the elderly anymore; article

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The article also discussed the upcoming Kicking Butt 5K Run/Walk, scheduled for Saturday September 25th at the Louisville Waterfront Park. This event, sponsored by the Colon Cancer Prevention Project, was started in 2003 as a way to bring together cancer survivors and advocates, spread awareness, and encourage screenings. It’s not too late to sign up for the 5K, 1 mile, or virtual event, and support this worthy cause.

If you or a loved one are experiencing symptoms of colon cancer or another GI condition, don’t hesitate to contact Dr. Sohi or one of the many experienced physicians at Gastroenterology Health Partners.

As the largest independent gastroenterology practice in the region, GHP is considered the only one of its kind providing results-orientated treatment for a full spectrum of digestive system disorders. Call to set up an appointment at one of our locations in Southern Indiana, Northeast & Central Louisville, and Lexington.

Why You Shouldn’t Wait To Get A Colorectal Cancer Screening

Are you on the fence about getting screened for colorectal cancer? Perhaps you think you’re too young to get cancer, or you don’t have a family history of it, or you’re anxious about the procedure. You push off the appointment, allowing yourself to think, “I’ll do it sometime soon…”

When it comes to colorectal cancer screenings, you shouldn’t ever wait. Regular screenings are recommended for those 45 years and older, and even younger if you have certain risk factors. For example, people with certain inherited conditions are at a higher risk for colon cancer, including those with Lynch syndrome and those with adenomatous polyopsis. You are also at higher risk if you suffer from certain inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s colitis, or ulcerative colitis.

Early detection is the key to effectively dealing with colorectal cancer. When detected early, colorectal cancer has a 95% survival rate. However, that rate drops to 25% if the cancer is not detected and spreads to other organs. 

Screening tests aren’t just used to identify existing cancer. Through screening, your doctor may find and eliminate precancerous polyps (abnormal tissue growths) in the rectum or colon, removing them before they even have the chance of becoming cancerous. Between 25-40% of adults in the United States are estimated to have colorectal polyps.

Colorectal Cancer Increases in Younger Populations 

While the overall occurrence of colorectal cancer has dropped in recent years (largely due to a rise in screenings), its rate among younger populations has actually increased. In fact, according to the American College of Gastroenterology, a millennial now has 2 times the risk of getting colon cancer and 4 times the risk of getting rectal cancer than someone from the baby boom generation. Research shows that rates in adults younger than 50 are continually increasing by 2%, every year. Mortality rates are also increasing.

What is causing this alarming change? Researchers attribute higher colorectal cancer rates in younger adults to a number of factors, including higher rates of obesity, more sedentary lifestyles, poor diet, and other environmental factors. A study released this May found a link between the consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks and colorectal cancer in women under 50. According to the study, women who drank two or more servings of sugary beverages had twice the risk of developing early-onset colorectal than those who consumed less. Furthermore, adolescents ages 13-18 who consumed sugary sodas had a 32% risk of eventually developing early-onset colorectal cancer. Research is only beginning to unlock certain lifestyle and dietary factors that play a role in developing colorectal cancer.

Colorectal Cancer and Covid-19

During the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, lockdowns and closings forced many people to cancel or put off every type of screening test. Colorectal screening tests in particular decreased by over 90%. In the following months, the numbers of tests only increased to 50% of what they were before the pandemic began. This drastic decline in testing is associated with troubling data about cancer outcomes. In June 2020, the National Cancer Institute predicted an excess of 10,000 colorectal cancer or breast cancer related deaths in the U.S. over the next 10 years, just because of pandemic-induced delays in testing, diagnoses, and treatments. Remaining up-to-date on testing is more important now than ever. 

If you’re due for a colorectal screening test or appointment, but are concerned about Covid-19 safety, don’t hesitate to book an appointment at Gastroenterology Health Partners. We uphold a number of safety procedures in-office, including mask requirements, cleaning and sanitization practices, disinfecting common spaces, and upholding social distancing when possible. Maintaining your safety is of the highest importance to us, just as is providing you with colorectal screening tests such as colonoscopies, flexible sigmoidoscopies, and more. Give us a call today to schedule your appointment.

Pandemic Alcohol Intake and GI Health

The past year-and-a-half has been incredibly difficult for everyone. From hundreds of millions of deaths to the challenge of lockdowns, social isolation and economic hardship, no one has remained unscathed.

Many people have turned to harmful coping mechanisms to deal with the medical, psychological, and sociological problems brought on by pandemic-related stress. While research is still limited, studies suggest that alcohol consumption has increased greatly. The first week of the pandemic, alcohol sales increased by 54% and online alcohol sales increased by 262%. A cross-sectional survey of American adults published in December 2020 found that 60% of people reported increased drinking. 34% of people engaged in binge-drinking and 7% reported extreme binge-drinking.

The impact of increased alcohol consumption on gastrointestinal health is even more staggering. Studies presented at the 2021 Digestive Disease Week suggest a major surge in inpatient consults for alcohol-related gastrointestinal and liver diseases since the beginning of the pandemic. Waihong Chung, a research fellow for the Division of Gastroenterology at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, conducted extensive research on the subject.

Chung found that during the initial lockdown phase of the pandemic, the number of in-person gastrointestinal appointments decreased by 27% (due to restrictions/closings). However, of those appointments, the proportion of consults for alcohol-related GI and liver diseases, such as hepatitis, pancreatitis, gastritis and cirrhosis increased by 59.6%! And, as lockdowns lifted, that percentage increased to 78.7%. Furthermore, patients with alcoholic hepatitis increased by 127.2% (since 2019) and the number of inpatient endoscopic procedures almost tripled.

Chung also contested that the occurrence of alcohol-related diseases could be much higher than reported, since many illnesses take time to manifest or show mild symptoms. Even if you seem to experience no ill-effects from binge-drinking, you should be aware that excessive alcohol is wreaking havoc on your gastrointestinal system. In the short-term, excessive alcohol causes intestinal inflammation and organ damage, alters intestinal microbiota, harms intestinal immunity and homeostasis, and damages the liver. In the long-term, you can suffer from alcohol-related gastrointestinal and liver diseases.

Unfortunately, the long-term effects of Covid-19 on alcohol misuse and overconsumption still have yet to be realized. For example, following the 2003 SARS epidemic, individuals in China who had been directly affected/involved were far more likely to abuse alcohol three years after the epidemic ended. The lasting psychological effects of the pandemic will likely increase alcohol misuse for years to come.

Besides causing fatal gastrointestinal conditions, alcohol can worsen existing mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression. If you or a loved one has been struggling to maintain a healthy relationship with alcohol during the pandemic, it’s recommended that you talk to your primary care doctor or seek medical help. There are behavioral, medical, and mutual-support-based treatment options available for you.

If you are struggling with gastrointestinal issues, induced by alcohol or by something else, seek experienced medical attention. The professional team of medical providers at Gastro Health Partners serves patients across the state of Kentucky and Southern Indiana. Contact a location near you today for more information, or to schedule an appointment.

Colon Cancer Stories

Colon cancer touches many lives each year. It can be powerful to learn how other people have experienced screenings, a diagnosis, and fighting the disease. To wrap up our blog posts on colon cancer for this awareness month, we’re going to showcase a few stories from several sources today.

Colon Cancer Foundation: Jamie’s Story

The Colon Cancer Foundation (CCF) has compiled a number of patient stories about colon cancer. One story features Jamie Crespo, who had both parents diagnosed with colon cancer in the same year (2017). Jamie details how the diagnoses came as a surprise due to a lack of immediate family history of the disease, and how it changed everyone’s lives. She also talks about her parents’ recovery, what she’s learned, and how she has made lifestyle changes following the experience. Read Jamie’s story and others on the CCF’s website.

Colon Cancer Coalition: Melissa’s Story

The Colon Cancer Coalition (CCC) also has a huge number of patient stories you can peruse. One is from Melissa Marshall, who was got colorectal cancer at the age of 51. She had been ignoring symptoms for a while before her diagnosis, including rectal bleeding, weight loss, and fatigue. Melissa eventually met with a colorectal surgeon who performed a colonoscopy and found a tumor in her sphincter. She was diagnosed with Stage III colorectal cancer, and went on to receive chemotherapy and an ostomy bag. Today, Melissa is cancer-free and is a strong advocate. She has also formed a non-profit dedicated to educate people about colorectal cancer. You can read Melissa’s story along with many others here.

Colon Cancer Prevention Project: Lindsay’s Story

The Colon Cancer Prevention Project has featured a striking story from Lindsay Norris, an Oncology nurse who survived Stage III colorectal cancer. She talks about how she never truly understood how her patients felt until she experienced colorectal cancer. In a lengthly blog post, Lindsay goes through all of the elements of her diagnosis and experience receiving treatment, comparing how she viewed these things as a nurse versus how she experienced them personally. It’s a highly insightful read- you can read the post here or visit her website.

Celebrity Colon Cancer Stories: Chadwick Boseman and Will Smith

Colon cancer has affected several well-known celebrities. Just in the past year, Chadwick Boseman passed away with colorectal cancer. The actor, known for films like Black Panther and Thurgood, was only 43. He had been fighting colon cancer for four years. We wrote a blog back in November of 2020 about Chadwick’s life and battle with colon cancer. You can read that post here.

Another story we recently featured is about actor Will Smith. Back in 2019, Will documented the process of his colonoscopy screening. In a vlog posted to his YouTube channel, he shows conversations with his doctor, the prep process, the day of the screening, and the follow-up. It’s a great video that showcases what the experience of getting a colonoscopy is like, and it also drives home the importance of screenings. Read our blog post on the video here.

Our experienced team at GHP has years of experience screening for colorectal cancer. We can help establish the best plan of care for your situation. Read more about how we perform screenings here. Contact any of our office locations to learn about the options we offer and schedule an appointment today.

ValueOfColonoscopy.org: ASGE’s Useful Awareness and Screening Tool

There are a lot of great resources if you are interested in learning more about colon cancer and screenings. One of our favorites comes from the American Society of Gastrointestinal Endoscoy (ASGE). The ASGE has a plethora of resources including videos, a screening tool, and statistics at ValueOfColonoscopy.org. Today on the blog, we’ll take you through some of the useful resources on the website.

Screening Tool: Determining Which Test You Should Get

One question many people have about screenings is which test to get. There are numerous options available. It can be confusing when figuring out which is the best fit. Fortunately, the ASGE created a tool that helps you identify the screening method that’s right for you. In a simple yet informative document, they take you through your options based on your risk level (no personal or family history of colon polyps or cancer, family history, or personal history). This tool shows you how these factors impact when you should be screened, how often, and with which screening method. For example, if you have a family history of colon cancer or polyps, it shows that you should have a screening as early as age 40. It also shows that a colonoscopy is best screening given your family history. It recommends talking with your doctor to establish a plan.

Colonoscopies during the Pandemic

During the pandemic, many people have had valid concerns about the safety of activities like doctor’s visits. This has actually impacted how many colonoscopies doctors have performed, and as a result an increase in the number of missed colorectal cancer diagnoses (read our blog post here to learn more). In a video, the ASGE shows how many steps medical professionals are taking to ensure your safety during screenings. They talk about pre-arrival screenings, in-office distancing and barriers, masking, PPE, testing, staff vaccinations, and more. We highly recommend watching this video to get a clear picture of how safe your screening will be. Plus, read our blog post here about what we have been doing at GHP to keep you safe.

Tips as you Prepare for a Colonoscopy

Another important thing this website covers is common patient FAQs leading up to a colonoscopy. The ASGE has a number of helpful guides and tips for you as you prepare for a screening. For example, they have a webpage dedicated to understanding bowel prep, an aspect of screening that many patients dread. They discuss the importance of bowel prep, what type of prep you may need to pursue, and other helpful tips. They even discuss common side effects, specific steps in prepping, and what to do if you forget to take prep medication. This is a great resource to help you make sure your screening is as effective as possible. The ASGE also has content and FAQs that help you understand colon polyps and colonoscopies.

Our experienced team at GHP has years of experience screening for colorectal cancer. We can help establish the best plan of care for your situation. Read more about how we perform screenings here. Contact any of our office locations to learn about the options we offer and schedule an appointment today.

Colon Cancer Awareness: Our Favorite Online Resources

March is colon cancer awareness month. This disease is preventable with timely and regular screenings. Awareness-raising resources and campaigns are a key part in increasing screening rates, so today on the blog we’ll share some of our favorite online resources on the topic.

CDC Resource Library

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has an excellent website full of resources. Among these resources is all of their colon cancer content. They have everything from personal stories to an awareness quiz and posts to share on social media. Here’s a list of some of our favorite resources they offer:

  • Data visualizations tool
    • You can examine colon cancer statistics with tools including an interactive map, tables, and charts.
  • Basic information
    • The CDC provides a central hub for all of the basics about colorectal cancer, including symptoms of the disease, screening information, and questions you can ask your doctor.
  • Screening stories
    • Read stories from people who have gotten screenings and learn about their experiences.

ASGE Colon Cancer Awareness Resources

The American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy has a number of great resources you can use as a patient and as an advocate. Here are a few highlights from their website:

  • Tool to start dialogue about screening for patients and doctors
    • This document breaks down the different types of screening available, divided by different risk categories.
  • Videos
    • ASGE has a number of videos that cover topics like colonoscopies, myths about colon cancer, and community outreach.
  • Banner and poster
    • The organization provides a banner you can use on your website or email signature, plus a poster you can print and hang up.

ASCRS’ Resources

The American Society of Colon & Rectal Surgeons has several resources on their website that you might find helpful. Here are a few favorites:

  • Media pitch letter
    • ASCRS has a letter that you can modify and send to local news organizations, asking for air time to talk about colon cancer.
  • Online store
    • The organization has an online store where you can purchase brochures in bulk for use in treatment settings.

Colon Cancer Coalition’s Targeted Campaign

The Colon Cancer Coalition has a targeted awareness campaign called #BlueForCRC that you can participate in. Their website has resources for this campaign including:

  • Sample social media posts
  • A training webinar for advocates
  • Informational resources that can be distributed
  • Tips and tricks for successful advocacy using their campaign

ACG’s Website

The American College of Gastroenterology’s website features resources that you can use for awareness-raising. Some of our favorites are:

  • A library of graphics that you can print for patients, hang as posters, and share on social media.
  • A podcast series that addresses colon cancer topics in a Q&A format. Episodes cover topics including risk factors, screenings, bowel prep, and early detection.

Our team at GHP has years of experience screening for colorectal cancer. We can help establish the best plan of care for you. Read more about how we perform screenings here. Contact any of our office locations to learn about the options we offer and book an appointment today.

How has the Pandemic Affected Colonoscopies?

The coronavirus pandemic has impacted our lives in countless ways. From finances to health and other aspects of life, it has changed how we live each day. In particular, many common medical check-ups, screenings, and elective procedures have been put on hold or delayed. One of these, the colonoscopy, has seen significantly decreased rates during the pandemic. This is a serious issue, as we know colonoscopies are a key screening strategy to prevent colorectal cancer. On today’s blog, we’ll take a look at how the pandemic has affected colonoscopies.

Colonoscopies During the Pandemic

Early on in the pandemic in 2020, medical practices put many elective and non-essential medical visits and procedures on hold. As a result, screenings for cancer like colonoscopies dropped significantly. One study examining screening rates in the San Francisco area found that colonoscopies decreased about 90% from February to May 2020. This coincided with an 85% decrease in fecal immunochemical testing (FIT), another screening method in the same time frame. There was also a 70% decrease in all in-person appointments, and a 60% increase in telehealth visits. Another report estimated that if that trend continued through early June 2020, there could be around 19,000 missed colorectal cancer diagnoses and over 4,000 additional colorectal cancer deaths across the United States.

These are significant impacts, and compound existing inequities in health outcomes. Many groups that have an increased risk of colorectal cancer have also experienced a higher risk of death from the coronavirus. These groups include Black, Native American, and Hispanic people.

Clearly, the pandemic has caused cascading public health problems. Fortunately, as we have learned more about the coronavirus, medical practices have been able to respond to transmission threats to practice safely. Masking, social distancing, sanitizing, and now vaccinations for medical staff have helped to create safe spaces for patients to receive medical care.

Importance of Screening for Colorectal Cancer

Screening for colorectal cancer is extremely important. When properly done, it has a high success rate at cancer prevention. With a colonoscopy, doctors can identify and remove precancerous polyps that could otherwise develop into cancer over time. The colonoscopy is the gold standard for screenings. When patients get colonoscopies on a proper schedule, the incidence of colorectal cancer falls by around 90%.

Gastro Health Partners, in line with various other organizations, is now endorsing regular screenings starting at age 45. Previously, 50 was the standard for beginning screenings. By changing this to 45, we can prevent more potential cases of cancer and save lives. If you are close to 45 or older, talk with your doctor about getting screened. They will take your situation into account and may recommend earlier or more frequent screenings depending on factors like family history and personal history of polyps.

Our experienced team at GHP has years of experience screening for colorectal cancer. We can help establish the best plan of care for your situation. Read more about how we perform screenings here. Contact any of our office locations to learn about the options we offer and schedule an appointment today.

Colorectal Polyps: What You Need to Know

Colorectal polyps are excess tissue that can form in the lining of the colon or rectum. While most are harmless, some can develop into cancer. Here’s what you need to know about polyps.

Causes, Risk Factors, and Symptoms of Colorectal Polyps

Polyps occur when certain mutations in genes cause uncontrolled cell growth. This continued growth can turn into groups of tissue- polyps- in your large intestine. Some of the risk factors for polyps include family history, being 50 or older, obesity, low exercise levels, and tobacco or alcohol use.

In many cases, polyps may not cause any symptoms at all. You may find you have a polyp only after an examination like a colonoscopy. However, in some cases polyps do cause symptoms. These include rectal bleeding, pain, changes in bowel habits, and a change in stool color (red streaks or black stool).

Neoplastic Polyps

One of the two main kinds of polyps is neoplastic. Neoplastic polyps have the potential to become cancerous. Within this classification, there are a few additional types of polyps. Adenomas are the most common type of polyp, making up around 70% of polyps. When found, it’s tested for cancer. It can take many years for these kinds of polyps to become cancerous, so with proper screenings they can be taken care of before they become a major problem. Serrated polyps are the second main type of neoplastic polyps. These can become cancerous depending on their location and size. Larger polyps have a higher risk of becoming cancerous.

Non-neoplastic Polyps

In comparison, non-neoplastic polyps usually do not turn cancerous. One common kind, hyperplastic polyps, are small and very rarely become cancerous. Another type, inflammatory polyps, are common in people with inflammatory bowel disease. These do not grow like other polyps- they develop in response to chronic inflammation. They tend to be benign. One final type is hamartomatous polyps. These may occur as part of a genetic syndrome, and tend to be benign as well.

Reducing Risk and Preventing Colorectal Cancer

In general, there are several lifestyle and screening measures you should take to reduce the risk of polyps and colorectal cancer. Eating fruits and vegetables and reducing fat intake are key dietary steps that can help you remain healthy. In addition, you should limit alcohol and tobacco consumption. Plus, staying active is a must.

You should also consider your risk for colorectal cancer or polyps based on family history. In some cases, you may want to pursue genetic counseling if your family has a history of colon polyps. Additionally, if you have a hereditary disorder that causes polyps, you may need earlier and more regular screenings.

Screenings themselves are a key aspect of preventing colorectal cancer. The colonoscopy remains the gold standard for screenings. It allows doctors to both detect and remove polyps to prevent colorectal cancer. In fact, annual colonoscopies reduce cancer incidence by around 89%. Screenings are now recommended earlier- at GHP we endorse annual colonoscopies for all patients ages 45-75. Visit our website to learn more.

Our experienced team at GHP has years of experience screening for and treating colorectal cancer. We can help establish the best plan of care for your situation. Contact any of our office locations to learn about the options we offer and schedule an appointment today.