Welcome to Healthy Tips! Every other month we will post useful health care tips for women here on our website. These will cover topics of interest to women of all ages. We hope you find the information helpful.
March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month
March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness month, so now is a good time to talk about how you can prevent this disease.
Colon and rectal cancers are the third most common cancers, and the second leading cause of cancer deaths, behind lung cancer. Yet they are also among the most treatable forms of cancer if caught early. There is a 90 percent success rate if treatment is begun while the cancer is in the beginning stages. Still, each year, many women die of this disease. Of growing concern is the fact that colorectal cancer deaths among people under age 50 are on the rise. Researchers are not yet sure why this is so, but believe diet, and an increase in inflammatory bowel disease, may be contributing factors.
The good news is that there are steps you can take to help prevent this deadly illness.
If you are age 50 or older, you should be tested. Your doctor can advise you as to which test he or she recommends, but it will probably be one of the following:
* A yearly fecal occult blood test (FOBT) or fecal immunochemical test (FIT)
* Flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years
* Yearly FOBT or FIT plus flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years
* Double-contrast barium enema every five years
* Colonoscopy every 10 years
Right now, most doctors are recommending a colonoscopy at age 50, with a followup screening schedule based on the individual patient’s history. However, given the recent increase in these cancers in people under age 50, an earlier screening may be recommended based on your health or risk factors, such as if you have inflammatory bowel disease. Testing may also be recommended more frequently, or at an earlier age, if the patient has:
* A personal history of colorectal cancer or adenomatous polyps
* A strong family history of colorectal cancer or polyps (cancer or polyps in a first-degree family member younger than age 60, or in two first-degree relatives of any age–a first-degree family member is a parent, sibling or child).
What Is a Colonoscopy?
A colonoscopy is a visual examination of the large intestine or colon, using a lighted, flexible scope. During the examination, the doctor can not only view the colon, he can also remove polyps or inject solutions that aid in further diagnosis.
The colon must be clean and free of stools before the exam. Consequently, the patient is advised to drink only clear liquids and eat no food the day before the exam. You will also need to take laxatives, and possibly use an enema, to ensure that the colon is flushed clean.
The day of the exam, the patient is mildly sedated and the endoscope is inserted through the anus and gently moved through the colon. The procedure usually takes 15 to 30 minutes and is seldom remembered by the patient. Patients stay in the recovery area until they are awake. Some experience mild cramping or abdominal pressure for about an hour after the exam.
Physical activity helps reduce the risk of colon cancer in several ways:
- It helps you maintain a healthy body weight.
- It accelerates the movement of food through the intestine, which reduces the amount of time the lining of the colon is exposed to toxins.
- It improves energy metabolism.
- It prevents Type 2 Diabetes, which has been associated with an increased risk of colon cancer, as well as pancreatic and other cancers.
How much physical activity is enough? The American Cancer Society recommends the following levels of physical activity to decrease not only the risk of colon cancer, but other cancers as well:
* Adults: At least 30 minutes of moderate activity, five or more days per week. Forty-five minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity on five or more days per week may further reduce your risk.
* Children and adolescents: At least 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, at least five days per week.
Moderate physical activity is defined as being equivalent to a brisk walk. Vigorous activities usually use large muscle groups and cause an increase in heart rate, breathing depth and rate, and sweating.
If you are currently not active, and wish to start an exercise program, talk with your doctor about how to begin.
The Facts About Fruits and Fiber
Fruits and vegetables are rich in fiber, as well as beta-carotene and the antioxidant vitamins A and C. Beta-carotene is two Vitamin As locked together, so it is also an anti-oxidant. Anti-oxidants prevent oxidization, or a change in cell structure, which is believed to be a precursor to cancer. Anti-oxidants are found in carrots, spinach, broccoli, winter squash, cantaloupe, brussel sprouts, tomatoes, apricots, and blueberries, to name just a few.
Eating good portions of fruits and vegetables can help reduce your risk of cancer. You need eat only moderate amounts to reap benefits.
Fruits and vegetables are also great sources of fiber, as are whole grain breads and cereals, and legumes such as beans, nuts, and peas. A diet rich in fiber and low in fat can help reduce your risk of colon cancer. How much is a good serving? The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the National Cancer Institute recommend at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day. This sounds like a lot but really isn’t. One serving of fruit or vegetables should fit within the palm of your hand. Think of it this way:
- A small glass of 100 percent fruit juice (3/4 or 6 ounces)
- A medium-sized piece of fruit, such as an orange, small banana, apple, etc.
- One cup of raw salad greens.
- One cup of cooked vegetables
- One cup of dried fruit
- One cup of cooked, dried beans or peas
A typical portion of fruits and vegetables is often more than one serving. For example, a large salad can add up to two or three servings of vegetables.
Try having a small glass of 100 percent juice for breakfast, combined with a whole grain cereal with fruit, or a whole grain slice of toast. For lunch, have a sandwich on whole grain bread with a piece of fruit, or a salad with a piece of fruit. Dinner might mean another side salad, plus a cup of cooked vegetables. Snacks count, too. Consider reaching for a piece of fruit, a bag of baby carrots, or a mix of dried fruit and nuts. In no time, you’ll be getting your required servings.
For more information about Partners for Women’s Health call (603) 778-0557.
To Breastfeed or Not?
Many pregnant women face this question. While the decision is a personal one, the following information may aid in your decision.
* A mother’s milk has incredible nutritional benefits for her baby. While there are many good formulas, none quite replicate what nature provides.
* In addition to nutritional benefits, a mother’s milk aids her baby’s immune system, helping protect her infant until the baby’s own system is stronger.
* There is some evidence that along with this immunity protection, breastfeeding also reduces the chance of your baby developing allergies.
* Breastfeeding can build a special bond between mother and child. The physical act of nursing brings mother and baby close, and creates a warm, comforting atmosphere.
* Breastfeeding can actually help a new mother lose pregnancy weight faster. The production of milk burns calories.
* Breastfeeding helps reduce blood sugar and promotes good HDL cholesterol.
* There is some evidence that breastfeeding helps reduce the chance of a woman developing breast cancer later in life.
If you have questions about breastfeeding, ask your doctor or health care provider.
For more information about Partners for Women’s Health, call (603) 778-0557.