A: Colon cancer covers the entire large bowel from the end of the small bowel to the rectum. When combined with rectal cancer, it is often referred to as colorectal cancer. Yes, risk for colon cancer may increase based on family history of colon cancer by a first degree relative, such as mom, dad, brother, sisters. Additionally, if several family members are affected, or if they were diagnosed with colon cancer at an early age, risk increases. If at risk because of family occurrence, what actions should be taken? Most colon cancers develop from polyps slowly over several years. In fact, it can take over ten years for a polyp to turn into a cancer. Colonoscopy is one screening tool that does decreases the risk of getting colon cancer by 90% since during this procedure polyps are removed, thus, eliminating the possibility of their developing into cancer. Also, some studies have shown that aspirin or ibuprofen use can decrease risk as well. The best action to take is to talk to your medical doctor about when you should start the screening process based on your family history.
Q: What method do you recommend I use to stop smoking?
A: Many of my patients struggle with not smoking, even though numerous methods to quit are known. To succeed, most people have to try more than one way. Some of my patients have found success by using the medication Chantix; while others have chosen to use the nicotine patch. Nicotine gum is also a good resource to help decrease a smoking habit. Many patients just go “cold turkey.” Whatever method used, having a good support system of friends and family can greatly help. Visit www.cdc.gov for more helpful tips for quitting from former smokers.
Q: I don’t know the difference between normal breast lumps and cancerous ones. When should I be concerned?
A: Because forty percent of diagnosed breast cancers are detected by women who feel a lump, establishing a regular breast self-exam is a helpful health habit. Adult women of all ages are encouraged to perform breast self-exams at least once a month. For women with a menstrual cycle, the preferred time for examination is two weeks after the period. To detect a change, women have to be familiar with their own breasts. Most women do have “lumps” in their breasts. However, watching for a new lump, a change in an existing lump, or an area that has become harder is important. Also, the American Cancer Society recommends yearly mammograms starting at age 40 and continuing for as long as a woman is in good health.
Q: Is there a new test for cervical cancer?
A: For nearly 60 years, the standard screening for cervical cancer has been the Pap test. However, just this past week an FDA advisory committee recommended that HPV testing become the first line of screening for cervical cancer. This test, performed just like a Pap test, detects DNA of the human papilloma virus, the cause of 99% of cervical cancer cases. Currently, the American Cancer Society recommends for cervical cancer detection that women between ages 21 and 29 undergo the Pap test alone every three years, with women between the ages of 30 and 65 having the HPV and the Pap tests every five years. However, if the FDA follows the advisory committee’s recommendations, this recommended schedule could change.
In 1965, 42% of Americans smoked. By 2012, this rate had dropped to 18%. However, in 2012, 30% of high school students used some form of tobacco product. This equates to 800 million packs of cigarettes consumed by our kids every year, nearly 2 billion in revenue for tobacco companies. In Arkansas, nearly 40% of high school students use some form of tobacco, a rate that is equal to the rate of use in 1965. Tobacco use among adults in Arkansas is at 25%, which is lower than the rate of high school students, but higher than the national average. Our kids in Arkansas smoke 7.2 million packs of cigarettes every year. The data for Oklahoma is almost identical to the Arkansas numbers. Statistics show that for kids under the age of 18 who live in Arkansas and Oklahoma, 160,000 of them will die prematurely due to smoking.
So, what can we do? One way is to participate in Kick Butts Day, a national day of activism, held March 19, which empowers youth to stand out, speak up and seize control against big tobacco. This month, more than 1,000 events are planned by independent organizers across the United States and around the world. By getting involved in Kick Butts Day, people can raise awareness about the tobacco problem, encourage peers to be tobacco-free and support effective solutions to reduce tobacco use. Please visit www.fsro.net or www.kickbuttsday.org to learn more about Kick Butts Day.