Although, it’s not a particularly easy subject to approach with people, it seems a bit easier in a blog than face-to-face. I’m talking about colon cancer. It is the third most common type of cancer, as well as the third most common cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. It is worth talking about.
A caregiver friend of mine shared that both of her maternal grandparents suffered from colon cancer. That was not the ultimate cause of their deaths, but they both endured the condition. Her grandfather even wore a colostomy bag following colon cancer surgery he underwent in the 1980’s, until a massive heart attack killed him on a cruise ship in 1997.
The American Cancer Society predicted that more than 110,000 people would be diagnosed with colon cancer in 2019, and they expect more than 104,000 men and women will receive the diagnosis in 2020. These numbers continue to decline, thanks to raised awareness about the disease and early detection.
Colon cancer awareness and screenings are critical for seniors and all adults over age 50, because this is the age group most likely to be diagnosed and treated for colon cancer. That said, colon cancer screenings may need to occur every 5-10 years, especially if any of the risk factors listed below apply. It is always best to discuss any risk factors with your doctor and follow their recommendations for colon cancer screenings, which can, potentially, save your life.
What is Colorectal Cancer?
The Florida Department of Health defines colorectal cancer as a disease in the large intestine, or colon, and the rectum, which is the connective passage to the anus. Colorectal cancer occurs when polyps appear in these areas and go untreated. Polyps can take years to grow, which is one reason they are most readily found in people over the age of 50. However, colorectal cancer does not discriminate. Young people can also be diagnosed with the disease.
Risk Factors for Colon Cancer
According to the Mayo Clinic, risk factors for colorectal cancer include age; a personal or family history of the disease; Irritable Bowel Syndrome and other inflammatory syndromes and maladies affecting the bowels; poor nutrition and diets high in fat, lacking fiber; a sedentary lifestyle; diabetes; obesity; smoking; and radiation therapy for cancer.
Symptoms of Colon Cancer
Sometimes there are no symptoms preceding the onset of polyps and the progression of colon cancer. However, there are symptoms about which you should be aware, including rectal bleeding or blood in the stool; abdominal pain and cramping; a change in the consistency of stool for a prolonged period of time; a feeling that the bowel will not quite empty all the way; weakness and fatigue; or an unexplained loss of weight.
Screening for Colon Cancer
Fortunately, the number of deaths has been decreasing over the last few decades, thanks to early detection and treatment. The age group most likely to be diagnosed with, or treated for, colorectal cancer remains adults over the age of 50, and it is recommended that everyone over the age of 50, be screened for colorectal cancer, especially if you have certain risk factors of the disease, which include smoking, obesity, heredity, Chrons Disease, and other related conditions.
When a colonoscopy or colonography is warranted to screen for polyps and other abnormalities in the rectum and colon that can lead to colorectal cancer, the preparation process requires precise instructions be followed to the letter in order to achieve the desired results.
It’s been my experience that seniors do not always follow the instructions like they should, especially if they live alone. I recommend a family member or caregiver ensure:
- No solid food is eaten the day before.
- 8 ounces of water are consumed each hour, as directed.
- The required magnesium citrate and over-the-counter laxatives are taken as directed for maximum cleansing of the bowels.
- No food or drinks are consumed after midnight the day of the procedure.
Also, because this process requires significant bathroom time, seniors with ambulatory issues will need assistance getting to and from the restroom, and on and off the commode. It is important to pay close attention to hygiene during this cleanse, as well, which can sometimes be problematic for seniors.
The scope itself is considered a surgery, because an anesthetist administers a potent sedative so the patient will sleep through the event. The colonoscopy only takes about 30 minutes, but it is crucial the patient is adequately prepared the day before, prior to the scheduled procedure.
March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, which got its start thanks to President Bill Clinton in 2000. Perhaps, the decline in the number of deaths attributed to colon cancer is due to this raised awareness, because more people are being screened for colorectal cancer. Early detection is the key to preventing and successfully treating the disease.
The process may not be pretty or fun, but it is a necessity. If a compassionate caregiver can provide personal care for seniors and assistance with the colonoscopy prep process, or transportation assistance to and from doctor appointments and medical procedures – like a colonoscopy – I am happy to offer a FREE Consultation to assess specific needs, or those of your loved one, and outline all the ways we can help.
If you or a loved one suffer from colon cancer and could benefit from in-home care, including companionship, light housekeeping, grocery shopping and meal preparation, please give me a call: 727.942.2539.
We, at Home Helpers® Clearwater, are honored to have received the Home Care Pulse – Best of Home Care® Provider of Choice Award for 2017, 2018, 2019 & 2020. We proudly serve male and female seniors in Clearwater, Dunedin, Palm Harbor, Safety Harbor, Tarpon Springs, Holiday, New Port Richey, Trinity, Port Richey, Hudson and surrounding areas. Home Helpers®…we are Making Life Easier℠