Colon Cancer Screening: Don’t Delay It

08/31/2011

“It was no big deal. I don’t understand why people stress over it.”

“The procedure itself was totally painless and relatively easy.”

 “It was a piece of cake.”

No, we didn’t pay these 50-something women to give us these comments about their first colonoscopy. All we did was ask them to tell us honestly what it was like. Given the negative perception about colonoscopy, their responses might catch a few readers by surprise. It should also make you think twice about skipping your colorectal screening test. Because the reality is that colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer among women. Since it’s also one of the few cancers we can stop before it even gets started (by removing precancerous polyps found during screening colonoscopies), the idea of missing something so clearly helpful has more than a few experts scratching their proverbial heads. And you don’t have to get a colonoscopy.

Other tests are available, although they, too, are underutilized. The main reason women don’t get recommended colorectal cancer screenings? Their health care professional never suggests it. You’ll never find David Stein, MD, neglecting to mention colorectal screening to a patient. The colorectal surgeon at Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia sees all too often what happens when people neglect their screenings. That’s why Dr. Stein is a big believer in colonoscopy. The statistics are amazing, he says. “About two percent of all colonoscopies pick up a cancer at the time of the test and about 15 percent pick up polyps,” he says. So 17 percent of patients undergoing a colonoscopy—about one in five—will have a finding that will save them from cancer in the first place or a bad outcome if they have cancer. “Colonoscopy probably detects true cancers about one centimeter or larger about 90 to 93 percent of the time,” he says. And it’s extremely safe.

The worst part of the colonoscopy, many agree, is the prep. For years, that meant drinking a large quantity of a nasty tasting liquid (even though it came in several flavors), designed to “empty you out.” Today, however, depending on the recommendation from your colonoscopist, you may only need to take a handful of pills. You’ll still spend a few hours in the bathroom, but at least you don’t have to choke down that awful liquid. Plus, two of the other three screening tests for colon cancer (flexible sigmoidoscopy and double contrast barium enema) also require a bowel prep and neither is as sensitive as the colonoscopy. And here’s the irony: If they show polyps or cancers, you’ll still need a colonoscopy to evaluate and/or remove them for evaluation.

The one test that doesn’t require prep is a fecal occult blood test. With this test, you collect stool samples, which are tested for breakdown products of blood in stool. You have to abstain from iron pills, red meat or broccoli before the test, and it still has a high rate of false positives. Plus, you have to do it three times. “Fecal occult blood tests probably pick up problems 50 to 60 percent of the time,” says Dr. Stein, which, of course, means it misses about half of all cancers. And if it’s positive, you still need a colonoscopy.

A newer stool test evaluates the stool for DNA from the most common mutations found in colon cancer and large polyps. That test, Dr. Stein says, is about 85 percent effective. However, it’s still considered experimental and most insurances do not cover it. One day, Dr. Stein predicts, colonoscopy will take a back seat to an improved DNA fecal occult blood test, or to a virtual colonoscopy, in which your colon is examined via a CT or MRI. Right now, however, you still have to do a colon prep for an MRI or CT, and they’re not covered by insurance either unless you cannot undergo colonoscopy for some reason. And you face the same issue with the virtual colonoscopy as you do with any other non-colonoscopy test: If it finds something suspicious, you still need a colonoscopy to remove the “something” for testing.

For more information on the health topics mentioned in this article visit the HealthyWomen.org areas below.

Colon cancer: www.healthywomen.org/condition/colon-cancer

Cancer: www.healthywomen.org/healthcenter/cancer

© 2011 HealthyWomen. All rights reserved. Reprinted withpermission from HealthyWomen. 1-877-986-9472 (toll free). On the Web at:www.HealthyWomen.org.

Advertisements

Water Wisdom

08/14/2011

from the Healthy Living area

You’ve heard all the advice: Drink eight glasses of water a day. Stay properly hydrated while exercising. Sports drinks aren’t just for professional athletes.

Yet you’re still unsure whether you’re drinking the right amount for good health.
How much fluid should you really be taking in daily? Do you need to add extra when you’re physically active? And is too much water dangerous?

Everyone’s body needs water. We lose it by sweating, excretion, or simply not taking in enough through foods—like fruits and vegetables—and drinks. Mild dehydration (losing less than two percent of your body weight due to inadequate fluids) can cause health problems, including dizziness and headache.

To keep your body supplied with the fluid it needs, especially when exercising, follow these tips:

  • Get the basics. Most women need eight to nine cups of total fluids a day, including all beverages and the water in foods.
  • Increase according to the weather. High temperatures or humidity outside, heated indoor air and high altitudes all cause you to need more fluids.
  • Add when exercising. Drink one cup of fluids every 15 minutes during physical activity, advises Werner W.K. Hoeger, Ed.D., FACSM, professor of kinesiology and director of the Human Performance Laboratory at Boise State University. He recommends sports drinks over water when exercising because they contain electrolytes—important to provide the minerals necessary for proper cellular metabolism—which is disrupted during physical exertion. Electrolyte replacement also helps maintain proper muscle contraction and cardiac function.
  • Add more for big events. If you’re going to be in a race or charity walk, make sure you drink enough to be well-hydrated the day before, Hoeger adds. Also, drink a glass of fluids an hour before the event.
  • Drinking for two? Pregnant and nursing women need additional fluids. Talk with your health care professional about what’s best for you.
  • Still thirsty? If drinking fluids doesn’t relieve your thirst, you may have a health condition such as diabetes. See your health care professional right away.
  • Too much of a good thing. In very rare cases—chiefly among marathon runners—drinking too much fluid leads to a life-threatening illness, hyponatremia. This occurs when sodium levels in the blood fall too low. It happens chiefly to athletes who have run for more than four hours and gained a lot of weight during the race from drinking.

For more information on the health topics mentioned in this article visit

the HealthyWomen.org areas below.

Fitness: www.healthywomen.org/condition/fitness

Healthy Living: www.healthywomen.org/ages-and-stages/healthy-living/diet-and-nutrition

Diet and FitnessHealthCenter: www.healthywomen.org/healthcenter/diet-and-fitness

© 2011 HealthyWomen. All rights reserved. Reprinted withpermission from HealthyWomen. 1-877-986-9472 (toll free). On the Web at:http://www.HealthyWomen.org.


Color Code Your Vegetables

08/01/2011

Color Code Your Vegetables

What a Painter’s Palette of Vegetables Can Do for You

by Janet Bond Brill, Ph.D., R.D., LDN

 

Fresh, colorful vegetables: dark green and leafy; red, ripe, and juicy; or bright orange and crunchy. This exquisite rainbow-colored cornucopia is truly the class of foods that keeps our arteries healthy and clean. Head for your green grocer and harness the phenomenal medicinal power of natural plant compounds. Buy them fresh, buy them often, and fill your body with a spectrum of healthy colors, nature’s medicine chest.

Studies show that heart disease death rate drops with each added vegetable serving!
That is why phytochemical-rich vegetables, such as spinach, are part of a plan I developed to reverse heart disease, and/or to build good heart health to hopefully avoid heart troubles. The other key food groups are olive oil, figs and other fruits, lentils and other legumes, salmon and other seafood, walnuts and flaxseeds, oatmeal and other whole grains, and red wine. Dark chocolate is a bonus food in this plan. Yeah!

 

I like to paint the colors of health by classifying and color coding vegetables into six colors, divided depending on their individual high concentration of phytochemicals (plant warriors against free radical destruction).

Here are the 6 categories:

 

1. Dark leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables such as spinach & broccoli
2. Red/purple vegetables such as tomatoes, beets and eggplant
3. Yellow/orange vegetables such as carrots and pumpkin
4. Green herbs such as basil and rosemary
5. Allium vegetables such as garlic and shallots
6. Other vegetables such as artichokes and zucchini

Vegetables are chock full of myriad polyphenols (the major disease-battling phytochemical), so be sure to tap into the miraculous healing power of plants. Consuming greens and other colorful vegetables throughout the day will boost your heart disease defense system by:

  • Increasing your body’s antioxidant level
  • Fighting inflammation
  • And, helping to prevent and treat diabetes

 

One additional advantage of frequent consumption of vegetables is that they are the perfect diet food — loaded with nutrients but very low in calories. Hence, eating your daily vegetable prescription will also help you control your weight, and being overweight is another major risk factor that ups your odds of a heart attack.

Here are a few ideas for getting colorful vegetables into your daily eating plan:

  • Routinely eat a dark green salad at lunch and dinner when eating in or out, and remember to dress simply with extra virgin olive oil and wine vinegar and/or fresh lemon juice.
  • For quick and healthy, try purchasing prewashed, bagged, and prechopped vegetables, toss them on a sheet of tin foil, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, and roast (425°F for at least 30 minutes). Keep in a container in the refrigerator for easy access.
  • Purchase frozen vegetables (with a short ingredients list). Frozen vegetables, picked and frozen immediately after harvest, are a nutritionally sound choice. (In fact, frozen spinach has been shown to retain its carotenoid power longer than fresh because of the lower temperatures at which it is stored.)
  • When time doesn’t allow for prepping fresh veggies, grab a bottle of jarred veggies, such as corn or roasted red peppers. Just watch out for added sodium, and if the veggies are packed in oil, check to ensure that it’s olive oil.
  • If the weather’s nice, fire up the grill and roast vegetables coated in extra virgin olive oil.
  • Infuse fresh herbs into your olive oil or mix into your salad dressing (olive oil vinaigrette) to add extra flavor and antioxidant power.
  • You can always get an array of colorful vegetables at a salad bar (some supermarkets even have them). Avoid the mayonnaise or oil-added veggie selections. Pile on the plain colorful vegetables instead and dress with olive oil and a splash of balsamic vinegar.
  • Remember, no lunch or dinner without that rainbow of vegetables!

 

You may be surprised at how some dishes truly come alive with the addition of this painter’s palette of health. A few of the recipes I include in Prevent a Second Heart Attack that feature greens and other vegetables are Chef Mario Spina’s Braised Broccoli Rabe, Chef Julie Korhumel’s Linguine with Fresh Garden Vegetables, Dr. Janet’s Spinach with Pine Nuts and Raisins and Dr. Janet’s Roasted Red Pepper Strips. All are sure to please the palate — and your heart health.

___________________________________

 

Janet Brill, Ph.D., R.D., LDN, is a leading diet, nutrition, and fitness expert. She is the author of Prevent a Second Heart Attack and Cholesterol Down. Learn more at www.drjanet.com.

_________________________________________          

 

Dr. Janet’s Roasted Red Pepper Strips

Serves 4

A quick and easy method for roasting red peppers. These are delicious in Roasted Red Pepper Hummus, Tuna Romesco, and Whole-grain Pasta with Roasted Eggplant, Olives, and Tomatoes found in Prevent a Second Heart Attack.

4 large red peppers, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch thick strips
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 375°F. Toss red pepper strips with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for about 50 minutes or until peppers are softened and starting to turn dark around the edges. Store refrigerated.

NUTRITION per 1/2 cup serving:
Calories: 133

Fat: 11 g (0 g EPA, 0 g DHA, <1 gALA)

Saturated Fat: 1 g

Cholesterol: 0 mg

Sodium: 294 mg

Carbohydrate: 10 g

Dietary Fiber: 3 g

Sugars: 7 g

Protein: 2 g

 

Excerpted with permission from Prevent a Second Heart Attack

by Janet Bond Brill, Ph.D., R.D., LDN ©2/2011.