Colon cancer risk factors and stages

Like many diseases, colon cancer is associated with several risk factors over which you have no control. For example, you cannot help it if you are older than 60 or have a family history of colon cancer. Being of African American or Eastern European descent can also increase your odds. Other factors to consider when evaluating your risk of colon cancer include having colorectal polyps, inflammatory bowel disease or a personal history of breast cancer.

The fact that there are so many factors which are unavoidable, however, mean it is especially important for us to pay attention to the factors we can control.

As is the case with many cancers, smoking is one risk factor that is entirely preventable. Drinking large quantities of alcohol can also increase your chances of developing colon cancer, as can eating a lot of red or processed meats.

A healthy lifestyle can improve your odds of avoiding colon cancer – and regular screenings can help you catch it early if it still develops. Finding it in the early stages is your best bet if you do develop colon cancer. In fact, the five-year survival rate if found early is 90%.

The five stages of colon cancer are:

  • Stage 0: Very early cancer on the innermost layer of the intestine
  • Stage 1: Cancer is in the inner layers of the colon
  • Stage 2: Cancer has spread through the muscle wall of the colon
  • Stage 3: Cancer has spread to the lymph nodes
  • Stage 4: Cancer has spread to other organs outside the colon

The five-year survival rate drops dramatically if cancer is not detected until the later stages, so if your lifestyle includes too many colon cancer risk factors make sure you are receiving regular screenings.

SOMC announces “Pot of Gold” Facebook competition

Southern Ohio Medical Center is encouraging its Facebook fans to vote in a new poll to determine the recipient of a $5,000 donation.

The competition will close on St. Patrick’s Day and, in honor of the holiday, has been titled “SOMC’s Pot of Gold.” It features five local organizations that touch the lives of our community in a variety of ways. Whoever receives the most votes will be awarded the entire $5,000 donation. The organizations featured are:

  • Portsmouth Area Arts Council and Children’s Theater;
  • Portsmouth Public Library;
  • Scioto County Homeless Shelter;
  • Simon Kenton Council, Boy Scouts of America (Tecumseh District);
  • Southern Ohio War Memorial

“Every year, SOMC invests millions into our community whether through charity care or donations like this,” Director of Community Relations and Development Kara Redoutey said. “What sets this apart, however, is that it gives our community an opportunity to be a part of the process.”

This is the second time that SOMC has allowed its Facebook fans to weigh in on a donation. Last year, the hospital highlighted five different organizations in a contest known as SOMC’s Community Valentine.

The final results will be recorded, and the winner announced, at noon on March 17. Participants in the contest must have a Facebook account and “like” SOMC’s fan page, located at facebook.com/SouthernOhioMedicalCenter.

March is colorectal cancer awareness month

The month of March is dedicated to raising awareness of colorectal cancer, which is the second-deadliest cancer in the United States. It can, however, be prevented. Finding and removing precancerous polyps that can develop into cancer can stop colorectal cancer before it even starts. Screenings can also detect colorectal cancer early, when it is most curable.

All adults over the age of 50 are at risk for colorectal cancer and should be screened for adenomatous polyps and cancer. Some people have a greater than average risk and should work with their doctor to develop an individualized screening plan. While screening is the most important way to prevent colorectal cancer, there are lifestyle changes that can reduce your risk for polyps and colorectal cancer.

Symptoms of colon or rectal cancer include:

•  A change in bowel habits

•  Blood in the stool

•  Diarrhea, constipation, or feeling that the bowel does not empty completely

•  Stools that are narrower than usual

•  General abdominal discomfort (frequent gas pains, bloating, fullness or cramps).

•  Weight loss with no known reason

•  Constant tiredness or anemia that cannot be explained

•  Vomiting

Receiving a colonoscopy is one of the best ways to protect yourself from colon cancer, and is especially important for those over 50. To schedule your colonoscopy, please call 740-356-6828.

SOMC hosting mental health in-service on March 11

Southern Ohio Medical Center will host a mental health in-service titled “Sundowners Syndrome” at 1.p.m. on March 11. The event will take place in the Gibson Building Conference Room, located on SOMC’s East Campus.

The event is open to the public and will be led by Dr. Adenike Moore.

For more information, or to RSVP, please contact Erica Kegley at 740-356-6845 or KegleyE@somc.org.

Managing cholesterol is a balancing act

Managing your cholesterol can be a balancing act. To best reduce your chances of heart disease, you want to have low levels of total cholesterol, but you want higher levels of high-density lipoproteins (HDL) cholesterol.

That’s because not all cholesterol was created equal.

HDL cholesterol is also known as “good” cholesterol. It helps prevent “bad” cholesterol (low-density lipoproteins, or LDL) from getting lodged in your artery walls. It does this by acting as cholesterol scavengers. It picks up excess cholesterol in your blood and takes it back to your liver where it’s broken down. By doing this, it reducing your risk of heart disease and stroke.

LDL cholesterol, however, can clog your arteries and increase your risk of heart attack. The body produces it naturally, but many people inherit genes from their family that cause them to make too much. You can also create higher levels by eating saturated fat and trans fats.

The good news is there are things you can do to make sure you have the right balance of cholesterol (high levels of HDL, low levels of LDL). Avoiding tobacco smoke, maintaining a healthy weight and being physically active can all help. So can eating whole grains, such as oatmeal, oat bran and whole-wheat products.

Everyone is different, so in addition to taking these simple steps you should also consult with your doctor. Your doctor will be able to work with you to find the treatment plan that best suits your needs.

Clay student gives Valentine’s Day gift to SOMC Cancer Center

Jimmy Prater, a fifth grade student at Clay Elementary School, provided the SOMC Cancer Center with a Valentine’s Day gift of several hand-made hats. The hats were adorned with a variety of decorative pins. Jimmy said he hopes to make more hats in the future and that it feels good to give something to the patients and staff at the SOMC Cancer Center. For more information about the SOMC Cancer Center, visit somc.org or like SOMC on Facebook.

Healthy habits can help manage, or even prevent, high blood pressure

It is natural for your blood pressure to go up and down overtime, but when it stays high for long periods of time it can create problems. High blood pressure, also known as “hypertension,” is a serious condition hat can lead to many health problems – including heart disease and stroke.

There are a number of risk factors that can contribute to high blood pressure. Smoking, stress, unhealthy eating habits, being overweight and a lack of physical activity all plays a role. Family history and advanced age are also factors.

Regardless of why you have high blood pressure, however, it is something that can sometimes be controlled by making various lifestyle changes. Several ways to manage your blood pressure include being smoke-free, getting at least 150 minutes of exercise a week, eating a balanced diet low in saturated fats and sodium and finding ways to manage your stress.

If these lifestyle changes are not enough, your healthcare provider may consider starting a medication to help. There are several different types and categories that can lower your blood pressure (and offer other health benefits). Talk to your doctor if you feel this may be necessary in your case.

Eating healthy, being active and avoiding tobacco are not just strategies to lower blood pressure, however. They are also ways to avoid having high blood pressure to begin with! There are usually no symptoms associated with hypertension, so the best to protect yourself is to adopt a healthy lifestyle and make a habit out of getting routine blood pressure checks.

Poor sleep can increase your risk of heart disease

Everyone knows that a good night’s rest can do wonders for how you feel, but you may not fully realize just how important sleep can be to your health. Poor sleep can actually increase your risk of developing heart disease.

Sleep disorders are medical problems that interfere with the amount you sleep or the quality of your sleep. Untreated sleep disorders, in particular sleep apnea, can have serious health consequences such as hypertension, congestive heart failure, abnormal heart rhythms and stroke. In fact:

  • About 40% of people with hypertension also have obstructive sleep apnea.
  • The changes in breathing caused by sleep apnea affect oxygen levels, blood pressure and heart rate. This leads to increased stress on the heart that can result in hypertension, congestive heart failure, abnormal heart rhythms and stroke.
  • About 75% of individuals with heart failure suffer from some form of sleep apnea. Treatment can improve heart function and quality of sleep.
  • Approximately 40,000 cardiovascular deaths a year are related to untreated sleep apnea.
  • Nearly 50% of individuals that have had a stroke also have sleep apnea.
  • Men with moderate to severe sleep apnea are nearly three times more likely to have a stroke than men without sleep apnea.
  • Nearly 50% of atrial fibrillation patients have sleep-disordered breathing.
  • Treatment for sleep-disordered breathing in atrial fibrillation patients has been shown to reduce the race of reoccurrence.

Symptoms of sleep apnea include snoring, nighttime gasping or coughing, difficulty breathing when lying flat, frequent awakenings, dry mouth or dry throat in the morning and morning headaches. If you suspect that you, or someone you love, suffers from sleep apnea contact the SOMC Sleep Diagnostic Center at 740-356-8822.

Improving heart health may be easier than you think

Across the United States, the month of February is recognized as National Heart Month. It is a time when many organizations, including Southern Ohio Medical Center, seek to shine a spotlight on the keys to a healthy heart and why it’s so important.

Some factors that put you at risk are unavoidable. For example, you can’t help but grow older. There are, however, many changes you can implement today to improve your health.

If you smoke, quitting is the single most important thing you can do to improve your health as it has been closely linked to heart disease (and a host of other diseases). SOMC can even help you drop the habit through free smoking cessation classes.

Your blood pressure and cholesterol also play major factors in your heart’s health. High blood pressure makes the heart work harder than normal. Cholesterol, meanwhile, can clog your arteries and raise your risk of a heart attack. Adopting a healthy diet and increasing physical activity can control both of these factors.

While losing weight will help, it is healthier to lose it slowly. Crash diets, very-low calorie diets, cleansings and fasts have all been shown to weaken the immune system and damage heart muscles. This will actually increase the threat of developing heart disease.

Aside from replacing bad habits with good diet and exercise, there are other ways – some you may not have considered – to improve your heart health.

Adopting a pet, for example, can help reduce stress and lower blood pressure. If you happen to have a dog, it can also make a great exercise buddy! Drinking green tea can also help by improving blood vessel function, and eating a small amount of dark chocolate can reduce the inflammation that leads to cardiovascular disease. Practicing good dental hygiene is also important as there is a correlation between gum disease and heart problems. Other changes, like limiting your intake of sodium, can also help.

Although it may seem overwhelming, it does not need to be. SOMC is here to help – and will even provide a registered dietitian to help you pick out healthy foods during your next trip to Kroger, free of charge!

For more information about SOMC’s Heart Smart Cart shopping program, call 740-356-8649. To sign up for one of SOMC’s free smoking cessation classes, call 740-356-2552. Additional information can also be found at www.somc.org.