Posts Tagged 'cancer'

A Well Kept Secret: Little Known Benefits

of colonoscopy:

#4. Several hours of deep, dreamless sleep

#3. Colonic cleansing (in the privacy of your own home!)

#2. Twenty-four hours of a clear liquid fast (without going to a spa!)

#1. Screening for colorectal cancer, the fourth most common cancer among American men and women.


Colorectal cancer is cancer of the colon (the large intestine) or rectum.  It is more common in persons over 50. Other risk factors include:


  • Polyps (growths that may become cancerous) in the colon or rectum
  • A diet high in fat
  • A family or personal history of colorectal cancer
  • Having Crohn’s Disease or ulcerative colitis.


Symptoms of colorectal cancer include:


  • Persistent abdominal pain or pressure
  • A change in bowel habits
  • Blood in the stool.


However, in the early stages, colorectal cancer often causes no symptoms.


Treatment for colorectal cancer depends on the stage and category (or sub-stage) of the cancer.  Stages vary from early, 0, to late, IV (Roman numeral 4).


Categories include:

T: the extent of spread of the cancer through the wall of the colon (from 0 to 4)

N: how far the cancer has spread into the lymph nodes (from 0 to 2)

M: whether or not the cancer has spread to other organs (from 0 to 1).


Treatment may include one or more of the following:


  • Surgery
  • Radiation
  • Chemotherapy.


As with most cancers, the treatment and eventual outcome of colorectal cancer is easiest and best when it is caught early.


At age 50:

Have a stool test for occult (microscopic) blood. Repeat it yearly.

Have a colonoscopy and then repeat the colonoscopy as often as recommended by your healthcare professional.


The number one benefit of colonoscopy is screening for the fourth most common cancer among American men and women, colorectal cancer.



For more information:


National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse




American Cancer Society


Uncommon, But Very Deadly

Inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) is an unusual and often forgotten type of breast cancer. It accounts for 1 to 5 percent of all breast cancers. IBC is often misdiagnosed in the early stages. Yet, it is an extremely aggressive kind of breast cancer that occurs most often in young women. Many cases are not diagnosed until the cancer has spread. The five year survival rate is only 25 to 50 percent. Women are not generally aware of IBC and are often ignorant of its symptoms.


The symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer DO NOT include a lump. Palpating the breast during a monthly self-exam will not reveal IBC. However, inspection of the breast in a mirror will often reveal the telltale changes of IBC. Symptoms can develop over weeks rather than months.


Symptoms of IBC include:

  • Redness, swelling and warmth
  • Heaviness, burning, itching
  • Inverted nipple (a nipple that is pulled inward).


As with all breast cancer, men are not immune. However, inflammatory breast cancer occurs in men at an older age than it does in women. But it is just as aggressive.


Unfortunately, the symptoms of IBC may also be signs of other problems, such as a breast infection or injury. Nevertheless, the symptoms should not be ignored. Inflammatory breast cancer is very aggressive. If the symptoms do not go away rapidly with treatment by your healthcare provider, suspicion of IBC should increase. Further testing is necessary. These tests include: mammogram, biopsy and ultrasound.


Treatment for IBC includes chemotherapy, targeted therapy, surgery, radiation therapy, and hormonal therapy.


For more information on inflammatory breast cancer, please see LINK.


I would like to thank my friend Marj for reminding me about this often forgotten breast cancer.

February Is An Important Month

The National Health Information Center has highlighted several important topics in February: American Heart Month, AMD/Low Vision Awareness Month, National Cancer Prevention Month, National Children’s Dental Health Month, and National Wise Health Consumer Month. In addition, there will be Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Week and National Eating Disorders Week.


Since all of these are important topics, I thought that I’d start discussing them a few days early and return to the topic of diabetes throughout the month.


Cancer Prevention


Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States. But cancer, which is number 2, isn’t far behind. Which cancer is leading this dismal pack? Lung cancer. In 2004 (the most recent data available) lung cancer killed over 150,000 Americans, more than breast cancer, colon cancer and prostate cancer COMBINED.


How to prevent most lung cancers? DO NOT SMOKE!! While not all lung cancers are caused by smoking, it is the number one preventable cause of lung cancer.


The risk factors for lung cancer are:

  • Smoking and second hand smoke
  • Environmental factors in the home or workplace, for example radon gas
  • Genetics and family history of lung cancer.


*** The CDC national “QuitLine” is 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669); TTY 1-800-332-8615.***


How does diet affect cancer risk? While many foods have been promoted as cancer preventing, there is little hard evidence that any one food or element reduces cancer risk. However, there are suggestive correlations between diet and cancer risk. For example, in populations which consume a diet high in fat there is a slightly higher incidence of breast cancer. However, this does not mean that a low fat diet is a preventative. There is also a small correlation between obesity and increased incidence of breast cancer. But again, REMEMBER a correlation is not a cause. But since a low-fat, high fiber diet is a known factor in the prevention of heart disease and obesity is a know risk factor, it’s wise to lower fats and increase fiber in your diet.


How about cancer vaccines? There are two types of cancer vaccines: therapeutic vaccines and prophylactic vaccines. Therapeutic vaccines stimulate the immune system to attack existing cancer cells. Prophylactic vaccines stimulate the immune system to attack cancer-causing viruses and prevent viral infection.


There are currently two prophylactic vaccines available: a vaccine against hepatitis B, which is closely associated with the development of liver cancer, and a vaccine against the Human Papilloma Viruses 16 and 18, which cause cervical cancer. The HPV vaccine is recommended for 11 and 12 year old girls.


How about skin cancer? Wear sunscreen and put it on all your children over the age of six months.


Screening tests for cancer aren’t strictly preventative. As all screening tests, they are meant to catch a problem in an early stage. So, for cancer screening:

  • inspect your mouth for odd looking discolored or white patches
  • examine your skin for changes in moles or the appearance of new ones
  • breast self-examinations (you men, too!)
  • mammograms
  • colonoscopy
  • self-examination of the testicles
  • stool tests for occult (hidden, microscopic) blood
  • Pap smears of the cervix.


Not all cancer is preventable. But why not do what you can to prevent it?


For Seven Steps to Reduce Your Risk of Cancer see

An Amazingly Quiet Two Days!

But yesterday was Tuesday and that means the NY Times Science Section.

The World

Health disparities continue at an alarming rate across the globe.  This is definitely not news.  But it does and will continue to affect us is some subtle and not so subtle ways.  For projected worldwide cancer statistics see  But for a look at disparity fueling anger, see

See my blog from December 22.

The Body and The Mind

In the “There’s lots we don’t know” category – a blind doctor “sees” not only obstacles in his path but also fearful facial expressions.   

In the “What makes us human” category –  You thought that deception was only a human trait?  Think again!  Maybe all those studies using animal subjects  are very, very flawed.


In the “Hurry up and market this” category – a device that DISABLES a cellphone if the user is driving. 

And, now, A Christmas Eve poem

T’was the night before Christmas and all through the house, just one creature was stirring with the click of a mouse.

The font was all wrong, the size was the matter.  It should be bolder.  It should be fatter.

That’s not what I wanted!  Everything clashes!  And to top it all off, the computer crashes!

I couldn’t believe it.  This must be a dream.  Note to self: Cut back on caffeine.

But I heard myself exclaim, ere the screen vanished from sight  – “Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

Thanks to Freelance Switch, Holiday Freelance Comic #84

Have a wonderful holiday!

Mary Lou Bernardo, PhD, MSN


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