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Mercer Island Half Marathon and Colon Cancer Prevention

On Sunday, March 25, 2012, the Mercer Island Rotary Club will be hosting the 40th Annual Mercer Island Half Marathon. Children and adults of all ages participate and we anticipate more of the same this year. In addition to the half marathon race around the Island, there will also be a 10K Run, a 5K Run and Walk and a Kids’ Dash. So anyone can participate!

Swedish and the Swedish Cancer Institute are sponsors of this signature event. We are so excited to be part of this event again. One of the main purposes of the day is to raise awareness of colon cancer prevention.

In addition to the various runs and walks, you can still visit, have fun and maybe learn something new. You can also visit the “COLOSSAL COLON”! For the first time you get to walk through the colon and see what the inside looks like! Just don’t get lost in there. Don’t worry, it doesn’t smell!

This year will be particularly special as the 40th anniversary run. In honor of the anniversary, the Mercer Island Rotary Club has collected the “40 Faces of Colon Cancer”. This is a terrific idea. It’s a way to make colon cancer personal and real. Patients of all ages, races and backgrounds have agreed to share their personal stories and cancer experiences. Each story is unique as are the individuals with cancer. What they have in common is a passion to raise awareness of colon cancer and the need to get screened.

Colon cancer is unique among cancers in that nearly all can be prevented with appropriate screening.

Upcoming livestream on colonoscopy, colon cancer, and colon health

If you're 50 (or nearing it), you should be thinking about getting your colonoscopy. Not a pleasant thought, but it's important for everyone to get screened at 50. If you don't know much about colonoscopies, why they are important, or have questions that you're too embarassed to ask, tune in to the livestream next Wednesday between 9 a.m. and noon (Pacific Time) at www.swedish.org/colonlive.

Drs. Raman Menon and Nicholas Procaccini are hosting a livestream to discuss the benefits of colonoscopy, and why it is important that everyone at age 50 get screened. Patients at risk and those with family members who have had colon cancer may need earlier screening. March is colon cancer awareness month – and Swedish is committed to identifying new ways of communicating to better inform and to provide a new level of education to the community.

You'll be able to watch them chat live, narrate recorded colonoscopy procedures, and answer your questions live (and you can submit them anonymously - so no need to feel embarassed).

What is colon cancer?

Colon, or colorectal, cancer is cancer that starts in the large intestine (colon) or the rectum (end of the colon). Other types of cancer that can affect the colon include lymphoma, carcinoid tumors, melanoma, and sarcomas. These are often rare but can often be detected by a colonoscopy.

What is a colonoscopy?

A colonoscopy is the endoscopic examination of the large bowel and the distal part of the small bowel with a CCD camera or a fiber optic camera on a flexible tube passed through the anus. By having a colonoscopy, doctors are able to see potential ulcerations or polyps within the colon. During the procedure, if these are found, doctors have the opportunity to biopsy or remove suspected lesions.

Why a livestream of a colonoscopy?

The American Cancer Society says that colorectal cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths in the U.S. However, if caught early it often leads to a complete cure. Education and awareness is our goal. Because of awareness, the death rate for colon cancer has dropped in the last 15 years ...

March is Colon Cancer Prevention Month: What you should know about colon cancer

Colon cancer remains one of the most prevalent cancers in the US, affecting 1 in 18 Americans during an average lifetime. This year, more than 143,000 new cases and 51,000 deaths are expected (only lung cancer kills more women and men than colon cancer). Men and women are affected equally. Age is a major risk factor with dramatic increases in colon cancer after age 50. A family history of colon cancer is another major risk factor that accounts for approximately one third of all cases. A family history in a first degree relative (parent or sibling) portrays a lifetime risk of colon cancer of 10-33%.

Colon cancer for the most part is a preventable disease. Incidence and death rates have been declining for the past 20 years because of increased use of screening tests and better treatments. However, only about 6 in 10 adults are up to date on getting screened for colon cancer. Most colon cancers arise from a preexisting noncancerous growth referred to as an adenomatous polyp. The hallmark of colon cancer screening is to identify those individuals who form precancerous polyps, and to have them removed non-surgically through colonoscopy.

Colonoscopy is the gold standard for colon cancer screening because of its accuracy in identifying small cancers and polyps and, the ability to remove them in one outpatient procedure. Colonoscopy has been found to significantly reduce colon cancer deaths by greater than 50%. This number compares favorably with mammography for breast cancer in women.

Colonoscopy may be the most unloved cancer screening test ....

Are You Up to Date on Your Pap Smear?

Recent changes to Pap guidelines may have you wondering when exactly you need to have a pap smear and in turn, how often you really need an annual exam with your gynecologist. Here I’m going to review the new pap guidelines so you can determine if you are up to date! Of course, every patient should check with their physician about what they recommend regarding the timing of cervical cancer screening because some specific populations may have different recommendations. These are just the general guidelines.

Pap smears are a screening test for cervical cancer. They have helped decrease the incidence of cervical cancer by more than 50% in the last 30 years. Over the last decade we’ve also begun testing for HPV (or Human Papillomavirus) which is by far the most common cause of abnormal pap smears and cervical cancer. It is an incredibly common sexually transmitted virus that can be spread by genital to genital contact but also oral to genital and manual to genital contact. It has been estimated that 75 to 80 percent of sexually active adults will acquire a genital tract HPV infection before the age of 50. Luckily, most HPV-infected women, especially younger women, will mount an effective immune response to the virus and will never develop dysplasia or cancer.

HPV is not like herpes —YOU CAN GET RID OF IT! The amount of time it takes to get rid of the virus varies but most experts think it takes an average of 8-24 months. Women with persistent HPV infections are more likely to get dysplasia and if it goes undetected or untreated, over time it can develop into cancer. HPV infections of the cervix do not cause symptoms and can only be detected by pap screening. Unfortunately we don’t have a cure for HPV, but vaccinations are available and FDA approved for girls and now boys ages 9-26. More on HPV is sure to show up in future blog posts, so stay tuned!

The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) recommends starting pap screening ....

How to prepare for a colonoscopy & what it's like

In many cases, people who have had colonoscopy will say that the procedure itself was fine, since it is performed while the patient is under sedation. However, people tend to feel less favorable about the prep involved prior to the procedure. I recently had my first colonoscopy and decided to document my personal experience of the prep process on video to share with others.

Other frequently asked questions about colonoscopy:

PCA3 - New help in diagnosing prostate cancer

This month the FDA approved the use of the PCA3 assay to aid in the diagnosis of prostate cancer. This is good news for patients with an elevated PSA (prostate specific antigen) blood test who are concerned about their risk of having prostate cancer. The PCA3 test is used on urine samples from men after a prostate exam has been performed. It measures the number of copies of a prostate cancer related gene, and compares it to the number of copies of the gene for PSA. Studies have shown that the use of this assay can help sort out who is at higher risk for prostate cancer. This can help patients and urologists decide who would likely benefit from a prostate biopsy.

The FDA specifically approved the PCA3 assay for men who ...

Lung Cancer Screening

We screen for breast cancer with mammography, colon cancer with colonoscopy, and prostate cancer with blood tests and exams – why not lung cancer?

If you’re a smoker or a former smoker, or even if you’ve had significant second-hand smoke exposure, you’ve probably worried about your chances of getting lung cancer, and whether there is anything you can do about it. Perhaps you even asked your doctor about getting an x-ray; he or she may have told you that there is no proof that it helps. That’s because a national study done years ago showed no benefit from getting chest X-rays, and therefore it’s not recommended.

The studies

However, since 2000, Swedish has participated in an international study – the International Early Lung Cancer Action Project (I-ELCAP) - to see whether CT scans or CAT scans – very highly detailed X-rays – might be able to find lung cancer earlier and improve cure rates. The study was begun by a group of investigators from Cornell University in New York. They knew that CT scans were very sensitive and would probably show a lot of abnormalities, and that most of them wouldn’t be cancer, so they worked out a system to determine which abnormalities were likely to be cancer. Their system worked, and they showed that when lung cancer was discovered through their screening system the cure rate was over 80%. That’s remarkable, because the normal cure rate for lung cancer is only 15%.

Because of their success, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) began a randomized study with over 50,000 participants. Half of them got annual CT scans and the other half got only chest X-rays. The results were just completed and were very exciting. The group that got CT scans had 20% fewer deaths from lung cancer than the other group!

The results are still being analyzed and there are concerns about safety from too many interventions, radiation exposure, and cost. It will take time to work through these issues, and there is still no general endorsement of lung cancer screening. However, several national organizations now cautiously support screening in high risk groups that meet the criteria for the national study.

Who should get screened, and how?

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