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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 Cancer and Age, Race, and Ethnicity

Colorectal cancer is not experienced equally by everyone. In the past several years, younger people have experienced increased colorectal cancer rates and deaths. Additionally, Black people and American Indians experience more cases of this cancer and related deaths. Here’s what you need to know about how this disease affects different people.

Colorectal Cancer in Younger Adults

Rates of colorectal cancer have been on the rise for younger and younger adults over the last several years. According to the American Cancer Society, while rates for adults 50 and older have fallen due to increased screenings, the opposite trend has occurred for younger adults. Recently, people 65 and older have experienced a decrease of around 3% per year from 2011 to 2016. In contrast, people ages 50 to 64 have seen rates rise by 1% per year in the same time frame. People under 50 have actually seen rates rise by 2.2% per year in the same window. Clearly, younger adults are seeing steeper increases in cases. Death rates have followed similar patterns. Death rates for colorectal cancer also vary by age group. Between 2008 and 2017, death rates fell by 3% per year in people 65 and older and dropped by 0.6% in people 50 to 64. However, they rose by 1.3% in people younger than 50.

Fortunately, colorectal cancer can be very treatable if it’s caught early. Younger adults should be aware of warning signs. These include changes in bowel movements (particularly over two weeks or more), rectal bleeding, unusual stools, and tiredness or low energy. If they have any of these symptoms, they should see their doctor.

Disparities Based on Race and Ethnicity

Along with age, looking at colorectal cancer rates and death rates based on race and ethnicity shows significant variation. The American Cancer Society’s data from 2012-2016 showed that rates were dramatically different based on race. Rates for Asian people and Pacific Islanders were the lowest at 30 per 100,000. Non-Hispanic white people had a rate of 39 per 100,000, and Black people had a rate of 46 per 100,000. Alaska Natives and American Indians had the highest rate, at 89 per 100,000. Death rates vary significantly as well- colorectal cancer rates are around 20% higher for Black people than non-Hispanic white people, but death rates are nearly 40% higher in Black people. Additionally, for Alaska Natives and American Indians, death rates are about double the rate for Black people.

Early Screenings Save Lives

While many of these statistics are troubling, we do know that screening early is an effective way to catch more cases of colorectal cancer. More and more organizations, including Gastro Health Partners, are pushing for earlier screenings and research on the disparities around this disease. Early screenings save lives.

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.

Lynch Syndrome: An Overview

Lynch syndrome is an inherited genetic condition that increases risk for colorectal and other cancers. It is the single most common cause of hereditary colorectal cancer. Here’s what you need to know about the condition.

What causes Lynch Syndrome?

Lynch syndrome, sometimes called hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer, is inherited by children from their parents. It is inherited in an autosomal dominant pattern, meaning that only a single copy of the altered gene needs to be present. So, if someone inherits a mutation in a gene related to the syndrome, they will still have a normal copy. However, cancer occurs when a second mutation affects the normal copy of the gene.

The specific genes involved in the syndrome are all involved in repairing errors that occur during DNA replication. If any of the genes (MLH1, MSH2, MSH6, and PMS2) have a mutation, errors occurring in replication accumulate, which can end up leading to uncontrolled cell growth and cancer.

Complications from Lynch Syndrome

If you have Lynch syndrome, you have a higher risk of developing colorectal cancer, and developing it at a younger age. People with the syndrome also have a higher risk of developing kidney, stomach, brain, liver, uterine, and some skin cancers. There are several other inherited conditions that can increase your risk of colon cancer, but this syndrome is the single most common. A rough estimate is that around 3% of all colorectal and endometrial cancers are caused by the syndrome. Around 1 in 279 people in the United States have Lynch syndrome.

In addition, having Lynch syndrome has impacts on the rest of your family. First, a positive diagnosis means that your blood relatives may have a chance of having the syndrome. In addition, any children you may have are at a higher risk of having it. If one parent has a genetic mutation related to the syndrome, a child has a 50% chance of inheriting it. This is because the syndrome is autosomal dominant, as discussed previously. You may want to meet with a genetic counselor to talk through these implications if you have a Lynch syndrome diagnosis.

The Importance of Family History

Since you inherit Lynch syndrome, knowing your family history related to colorectal cancers is crucial. If your family has a history of colorectal or endometrial cancer, you should talk with your doctor to evaluate your risk. In particular, you are more likely to have the syndrome if your family has a history of colorectal cancer at a young age, endometrial cancer, or other related cancers.

Your doctor may recommend a genetic evaluation of your family history and risk. Genetic counselors can help you understand Lynch syndrome and whether genetic testing is a good option for you. Usually, family members with the syndrome share the same specific genetic mutation. If any of your family members have a known a syndrome mutation, you may be tested for the same mutation if you are pursuing genetic testing.

The good news is that we can prevent a lot of the cancers caused by Lynch syndrome with early screenings. Screening early and often can help catch cancer early and lead to better outcomes.

Our experienced team at GHP has years of experience screening for and treating cancers caused by Lynch syndrome. 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.

Featured press release: DHPA Supports USPSTF Recommendations to Begin CRC Screening at 45, Calls for More Research on Disparities in Communities of Color

The Digestive Health Physicians Association recently announced its support for the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF)’s draft recommendation to begin colorectal cancer screenings at age 45. Gastro Health Partners endorses these changes as well. Read more about the DHPA’s support for the changing guidance in this press release:

“Washington, DC – The Digestive Health Physicians Association (DHPA) voiced its support for a draft recommendation by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) that Americans begin screening for colorectal cancer at the age of 45, an update of 2016 guidelines that had recommended that adults without risk factors for CRC should begin screening at age 50 and continue periodically until 75.”

Click here to read the full press release

Endoscopic Mucosal Resection (EMR): An Overview

Endoscopic Mucosal Resection, or EMR, is a therapeutic technique that helps remove precancerous and early stage cancer lesions during an upper endoscopy or colonoscopy. This technique is a less-invasive alternative to surgery. Here’s what you need to know if you are preparing for an EMR.

When is an Endoscopic Mucosal Resection Used?

EMRs are used to remove abnormal tissues in the digestive tract. The procedure can help treat a variety of conditions including Barrett’s Esophagus, colorectal cancer, and colon polyps. This is a less invasive option than surgery for removing abnormal tissues in the digestive tract. While EMRs are often used to treat disease, your doctor may also collect tissue samples during the procedure. They can examine tissue they collect to determine a diagnosis and the scope of disease spread. 

Preparing for an EMR

There are several important steps you need to follow prior to an Endoscopic Mucosal Resection. Your physician will discuss each of these with you leading up to the procedure. First, you may need to stop taking certain medications. These include blood-thinning medications like aspirin, Plavix (clopidogrel), Xarelto (rivaroxaban), Lovenox (enoxaparin), Pradaxa (dabigatran), Coumadin (warfarin), and Eliquis (apixaban). Blood-thinners increase your risk of excessive bleeding during the procedure. Also, if you use insulin, you may need to adjust your dosage and timing before the procedure. Make sure you discuss all medications you use with your doctor. 

Additionally, you will need to follow a clear liquid diet the day before the procedure, and stay hydrated. You will also need to fast beginning the midnight before your procedure. For EMRs performed through a colonoscopy, you will also need to undergo a cleansing routine. This involves taking a liquid laxative the day before your EMR to prepare your bowels. 

During the procedure

EMRs are performed through either an upper endoscopy or a colonoscopy, depending on the location of the diseased tissue. When you arrive for your procedure, you will go to a pre-op area where nurses will take your medical information and place an IV. You will also speak with an anaesthesiologist about the sedation they will use for the procedure. 

You then will go to the procedure room and be connected to monitors that will measure your vitals during the EMR. You’ll be sedated at this point. If the procedure is done through an upper endoscopy, you will be placed on your left side and given a bite block so the endoscope can pass through your mouth safely. If it is done through a colonoscopy, you will also be placed on your left side so the colonoscope can pass through your anus and advanced into the colon. 

Your doctor will be identifying and removing lesions during the EMR. There are several ways to remove lesions. Your doctor may inject a liquid into the submucosal layer under the lesion, which acts as a pillow that lifts the lesion for easy removal. They may also use a suction or a rubber band to help lift the lesion. After the lesion is lifted, it will be captured with a snare and the removal site will be cauterized. The procedure takes around 20 to 60 minutes.  

After the Endoscopic Mucosal Resection

Following your EMR, you will move to a post-op area to recover from sedation and monitor for any complications. Once you have recovered, your doctor will talk to you about the findings and give you post-op recovery instructions. You should not drive or make important decisions for 24 hours following the EMR due to sedative effects. You should follow a clear liquid diet immediately following the procedure, and can later transition to bland foods and a more regular diet. 

Complications from an EMR are uncommon. This includes bleeding, which occurs in 5-10% of cases. Your doctor can usually stop bleeding during the procedure if they recognize it. However, bleeding can become severe if it is delayed and may require follow-up care. In other rare cases (1-2% of the time), perforation of the intestine can occur. This is often managed through antibiotics, bowel rest, and hospitalization. It may require surgery as well. Additionally, some patients have reactions to sedative medication in uncommon cases. Always contact your doctor if you have any severe symptoms like abdominal pain, a fever, or excessive rectal bleeding after the procedure, as they may indicate a severe complication. 

Our experienced team at GHP has years of experience performing EMRs. 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.

What is Infusion Therapy?

When people become severely sick or weighed down by compound disease conditions, oftentimes they have difficulty swallowing. This can make seemingly simple things like eating, drinking and taking medications difficult.

Additionally, certain medications may not be recommended orally since an individual’s stomach acids may affect their quality, rendering them ineffective when it comes to treating diseases.

There are many reasons why people may receive medication through their body instead of their mouth (orally).

What is Infusion Therapy?

Infusion therapy is an alternative to oral treatment that entails the administration of drugs or medicine through a sterile catheter or needle. These are often introduced into a patient’s vein and secured by a professional healthcare provider. This treatment option has been used for a long time by hospitals.

Increasingly, infusion therapy is also applied in outpatient healthcare settings and community care centers, by specialized nurses who are professionally trained to carry out this procedure. At Gastroenterology Health Partners, our outpatient infusion center is available to patients in a convenient and higher quality setting, with no wait time and ample appointment availability. Depending on one’s insurance carrier and plan, this procedure can often be done at a lower cost, with the benefit of getting to know the same infusion RN over time.

What Medical Conditions Does Infusion Therapy Treat?

Infusion therapy is primarily used to treat severe or chronic diseases and infections that may not respond to oral antibiotics. There are many examples of disease conditions and infections that are treated continuously using infusion therapy. This includes different types of cancers, gastrointestinal tract infections, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and inflammatory bowel disease.

An Overview of What to Expect with Outpatient Infusion Treatment

There are a couple of factors that you need to expect with outpatient infusion treatment or therapy.

The infusion process typically lasts for an hour, but this does vary. The time taken during this therapy is based on the type of medication administered and also the kind of illness or infection being treated. While some medicines require more extended periods of infusion, others take a short time.

Dosage also dictates the length of infusion. In some cases, patients receive their infusion dosage slowly, especially for their first time. Whereas for others, it may take a longer length of time. This may be done to confirm that a patient doesn’t develop adverse reactions to the medication offered via infusion.

Prior to the administration of infusion therapy, there is also some preparation. This might involve recording a patient’s blood pressure, weight, height, and body temperature.

Prior to infusion therapy your doctor might ask you to prepare by drinking a specific amount of water. You may also be advised to wear comfortable clothing for the procedure.

As an infusion patient, you have a choice in deciding a location for your infusion therapy. Cost and convenience are critical to this decision.  GHP offers the convenience of this service to its patients at a cost which is far lower than an inpatient setting. Contact any of our office locations to reach a dedicated infusion therapy concierge to confirm options available to you based on your specific health plan.

October’s MD Update: Dr. Jones Speaks “Going on Offense Against Cancer”

Our very own Dr. Whitney Jones graced the cover of MD-Update’s October issue.  Read about how he embraces preventative measures to beat colon cancer before it starts in the following article.

“We spend a lot of money on healthcare and health insurance. The problem is, we’re not spending enough on prevention.”— Whitney Jones, MD

 In the movie “Karate Kid,” there’s a scene where Mr. Miyagi asks the title character if he’s training to fight. In his light bulb moment, the student responds that he trains, “So I won’t have to fight.”

Make no mistake, Whitney Jones, MD, knows how to treat cancer. He’s trained for it and has years of experience in it. But it’s a fight he would prefer doesn’t take place.

“We’re going on offense against cancer,” says Jones, a gastroenterologist at Gastroenterology Health Partners (GHP) in Louisville. “We are working on becoming the number one state and the first in the nation to develop programs where we can use genetic testing. We spend a lot of money on healthcare and health insurance. The problem is, we’re not spending enough on prevention. The cost of cancer treatments totally overwhelms the cost of prevention.”

That has been the central message and purpose of the Kentucky Colon Cancer Prevention Project, which Jones helped found in 2004. The project’s work includes education, advocacy, survivor support, and health system change.

“It put the work of the state in front of the legislature,” Jones says, noting that a diverse group of leaders from across the state formed the project’s advisory committee. “It added a mix of healthcare, politics, and business that was catalytic.”

The project has received state funding as well as additional funding from the Kentucky Cancer Foundation, which Jones also helped found in 2012. “We have helped pay for a lot of uninsured people to get colorectal cancer screening,” Jones says.

The impact of the Colon Cancer Prevention Project is reflected in the state’s improvement versus the rest of the country. Jones notes that Kentucky ranked 49th out of 50 in the nation in colon cancer prevention statistics when the project was launched. The state also had the highest rates of incidence and mortality in the nation. Earlier this year, Kentucky ranked 17th best in the nation in the same colon cancer related categories and earned an American Cancer Society Achievement Award for the most improved state in the nation for colorectal screening over the past 15 years.

“When we started our work at the Colon Cancer Prevention Project, there was a huge gap between what could be done and what we were doing,” Jones says. “It’s been a broad coalition, including many of our state leaders and city officials. I think it’s proven that Kentucky can address its own problems, we can develop solutions, we can implement them locally, and we can save lives and save money.”

Read the full article here: