House Calls

WIN 2019

House Calls Magazine is a quarterly publication that focuses on health and wellness. It includes a wide assortment of articles with topics on the latest health and wellness information, nutrition, safety, lifestyles, and more.

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h o u s e c a l l s { winter 2019 } 39 GET SCREENED Colonoscopy: It's a word that can strike fear in anyone, but Dr. Lagares assures that, these days, the procedure is fast and efficient. STEP 1: You are given a solution to drink—a strong laxative—the day before to clean out the bowels. STEP 2 : Once at the medical office, you will be administered general anesthesia. A doctor will insert a colonoscope into your rectum and colon via the anus. A camera on the end of the scope allows the doctor to see inside and examine the large intestine. STEP 3: While inside, the doctor will remove any polyps and have them sent to the pathology lab for testing. "The procedure takes about 15 to 20 minutes start to finish and patients can go home the same day," says Dr. Lagares, who notes that some may experience abdominal cramping or gas for a few hours after the procedure. "The best way to recover is to walk afterward, which helps restart bowel function, and to otherwise take it easy." Patients are typically able to resume normal activities the following day. The ACS recommends that adults with an average risk for colorectal cancer get a colonoscopy every 10 years starting at age 45. McLeod points out that for young and middle-age adults, insurance may not cover the screening. "The cost is worth it—early detection can make all the difference," she says. "Had I waited any longer, I probably wouldn't be sitting here today." Less invasive screening options—such as the doctor-prescribed Cologuard®, an at-home noninvasive test that checks for altered DNA or blood in stool—are becoming increasingly common, as well. Discuss your options with a gastroenterologist or your primary care provider. Dr. Jorge Lagares-Garcia Depending on the cancer's stage, a doctor may recommend chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy, as well. Additional chemotherapy was the case for McLeod, whose cancer had spread throughout the colon and three lymph nodes, making it a stage 3 diagnosis. For her, chemotherapy began a week after her tumor was surgically removed. "I began chemo on August 18, 2017—my kids' first day of school," she recalls. "Success of treatment is largely influenced by the stage at which the cancer was diagnosed," says Dr. Lagares, who stresses that the earlier the cancer is found, the better. Earlier this year, the ACS updated colonoscopy guidelines, lowering the starting age for regular screenings from 50 to 45. Yet Dr. Lagares says following these recommendations is not enough. "People need to know their family's medical history and tune into their own body." Having a family history of colorectal cancer or of certain conditions, such as Crohn's disease or familial adenomatous polyposis, can put you at increased risk. "If a family member has had colon or rectal cancer, you should be screened 10 years prior to the age at which they were diagnosed," says Dr. Lagares. Having received radiation to the belly or pelvis may increase your risk, as can lifestyle factors like being overweight, smoking, and consuming alcohol in excess. "There is also data that shows high intake of red and processed meats may increase one's risk of the cancer," says Dr. Lagares. The ACS notes too that rates of colorectal cancer are roughly 30 percent higher among men than women. Luckily, healthy lifestyle choices can help lower—or offset—your risk. "Not only is staying active good for preventing cardiovascular disease, the number one killer in the country, it also improves bowel activity, which can help eliminate toxins from the body." Eating diets low in red meat and processed foods and high in fiber and organic fare may help, as well. Lastly, pay attention to changes in your body, stress both Dr. Lagares and McLeod. "Don't just brush it off if you're constipated or if you have bleeding," she says. "It's easy to talk yourself out of it, but you have to be an advocate for yourself." McLeod—who is 18 months post surgery and cancer free—is living proof of the power of early detection. Since winning her own battle with colorectal cancer, she has become a champion for early screenings. After much convincing, she finally prompted her husband to have a colonoscopy. "They found nine pre-cancerous polyps in his colon. I told him, "Had you waited, you would have ended up just like me.'" "With early detection, colorectal cancers can be treated and patients can be cured." —DR. JORGE LAGARES-GARCIA KNOW YOUR RISK

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