Health News of Friday, 8 March 2013
Source: Dr. Kojo Cobba Essel
Unlike mammograms and PSA (they screen for breast and prostate cancer) that may catch cancer in its early stage, with screening for colon cancer we are trying to prevent it from even starting. The good news is you can play a part in reducing deaths from colon cancer by spreading the news and making sure you are screened when the time is ripe.
It is heartwarming to know that if everyone who is 50 years or older were screened regularly over 50% of deaths from this cancer could be avoided.
Sikaman is 56 years old and we have chalked some successes along the way but we have many challenges as well and one that stares us in the face each day yet we do little about is the canker of lifestyle diseases that have now reached epidemic proportions. I marvel at the way all of us especially the Ghana Health Service (GHS) and the Ministry of Health seem to focus on conditions that bring in funding from our “foreign partners” but that may not be surprising since we spend a lot of tax-payers money and working hours to go globetrotting for foreign-investors when there are Ghanaians with the resources and competence who could deliver when given the needed support.
In recent times I do not think any country has made great strides by depending heavily on others. Yes, the world is a global village and when one country sneezes we could all catch a cold but we could learn from the Asian Tigers. As we celebrate our 56th year after Independence, it may be a great idea to get a thorough ‘health screening” and plan appropriately.
I know change will come someday but for now always remember that “Your Health is Your Responsibility – So Take Control!” I do not believe that all silence is golden especially when it comes to disease states; remember how high blood pressure, osteoporosis and high cholesterol among many others can be causing havoc in your body while you feel perfectly well? Add another culprit to this list; Colon cancer especially in the early stage presents with NO symptoms. That is another reason why it is so important to get regular screening for this preventable cancer. Other ways that colon cancer may present include:
• A change in bowel habits, which may be diarrhoea or constipation
• Unexplained weight loss
• Constant tiredness
• Blood in stool
• Gas, bloating, cramps
Now, do not play doctor yet; when you have one or more of the symptoms above it does not mean you have colon cancer. You need to talk to your doctor.
Risk Factors You Can’t Control
• Age; after age 50 our risk increases.
• Polyps (abnormal growth) or inflammatory bowel disease
• Family history of colorectal cancer
• History of ovarian or breast cancer
Risk Factors You Can Control
• A diet high in red meat, animal fat, processed meat or meat cooked at high temperature
• Being overweight (excess fat around the waist)
• Exercising too little
• Smoking or drinking alcohol
Who Should Be Screened?
Everyone 50 years or older should be screened. This is not gender biased. If you have a family history of colon cancer or are experiencing suspicious symptoms then it may be necessary to screen even before your golden jubilee.
Screening Can Save Your life
• You may discover precancerous polyps so that they can be removed before they turn into cancer. This will prevent colorectal cancer
• Screening tests may also find colorectal cancer early when treatment often leads to a cure
In general start screening at age 50 and do it regularly till your 75th birthday. At this point you will need to decide with your doctor if you need to continue screening.
A Glance At Screening Tests
• Colonoscopy – it has the advantage that one looks directly at the lumen of the large intestine and if there are any abnormal growths, they can be removed
• Testing for blood in stools (faecal occult blood). May be done yearly
• Double-Contrast Barium Enema
• CT Colonography or virtual colonoscopy. This differs from the actual colonoscopy in that if abnormalities are detected, you will need a good old colonoscopy to remove them.
There is currently a non-invasive test waiting for approval. It tests for stool DNA and can detect both early stage colon cancer and precancerous polyps. We are patiently waiting to add this to our arsenal for bombarding colon cancer.
Like all cancers, colon cancer has guidelines for treatment but the focus now for everyone especially those of us struggling with water, electricity and gas among many others should be to prevent it. Dear reader kindly spread the news that screening for colon cancer is available and extremely important and remember to get screened yourself when the time is due.
AS ALWAYS, LAUGH OFTEN, WALK AND PRAY EVERYDAY AND REMEMBER IT’S A PRICELESS GIFT TO KNOW YOUR NUMBERS (blood sugar, blood pressure, blood cholesterol, BMI)
Dr. Kojo Cobba Essel
Moms’ Health Club
Dr Essel is a medical doctor and is ISSA certified in exercise therapy and fitness nutrition.
Thought for the week – “Many cancer societies like their counterparts in the cardiovascular area recommend that we need to exercise at least 30 minutes a day 5 days a week to reduce our risk for many cancers.”
1. Special thanks to Albion Jr Mends
3. Sheryl M. Ness, R.N. for Mayoclinic.com
4. Health by Choice Not Chance