Archive for colorectal cancer screening

Screen by 45 to Thrive!

Hitting Cancer Below the Belt (HCB2) enthusiastically supports the current efforts to lower the colorectal cancer screening age to 45 for everyone of average risk. To be clear, the current recommendations state that those in the Black community need to begin screening by age 45 due to the documented, higher risk many face with this disease. The current recommendation for all others of average risk is to begin screening by age 50. 

Regardless of your age, HCB2 actively encourages all community members to be mindful of their GI symptoms and family history. When one is experiencing symptoms such as blood in the stool, thin or flat stools, chronic constipation and/or diarrhea, persistent belly pain or bloating, or loss of weight, it is important to pursue medical attention as soon as possible. Screening also needs to begin earlier if one has a family member who has experienced colorectal cancer or persistently has polyps removed during their routine colonoscopy procedure. Lastly, the age whether 45 or 50 is not the time to just begin thinking about testing, it is the deadline to get the test! Please do not hesitate to talk with your provider and pursue screening by this age or possibly earlier depending on family history and other risk factors. Age should not be the only determiner for early detection.

Why should the recommended screening age for those at average risk be lowered? We know diagnosis of colorectal cancer is rising in younger populations. Recent data reveals men and women born after 1990 are 4x more likely to be diagnosed with rectal cancer and 2x more likely to be diagnosed with colon cancer. The statistics have been showing a 44% increase of colorectal cancer diagnoses in people under age 50 since 1996. To add to the urgency, research shows 65% of young people are diagnosed in the later stages where survival from 5 years of diagnosis is an estimated 14%. This late stage diagnosis may be due to a long delay in the initial diagnosis as some may not understand they are at risk for this disease at a young age and their provider may not believe cancer is a possibility either due to an individual’s age.

Who is responsible for the push to lower screening age? Large national organizations have taken notice and are beginning the conversation to lower the colorectal cancer screening age for all of average risk. The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), the Fight CRC foundation, and the Prevent Cancer Foundation have held meetings to address this critical issue and to enact policy at state levels to increase access to timely colorectal cancer screening. They report Kentucky, Maine, and Indiana have already adopted the American Cancer Society’s guideline to begin screening by age 45 for everyone of average risk. They also affirm the recommendation that higher risk individuals should be screened earlier. Again, knowing your family history and being mindful of your bodily symptoms will help determine what screening schedule, and type of screening test, is best for you. 

Most recently, the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) drafted new guidelines for screening and now recommends screening begin at age 45, at the latest, for all people. The USPSTF sets these screening guidelines and most insurance companies will adhere to these and other recommendations to cover the cost of preventive screening. Their current recommendation is in draft mode and we eagerly await the final approval in 2021.  

HCB2 gives high priority to the importance of screening and encourages conversation about an  “uncomfortable” subject because we want to create an environment where colorectal cancer diagnosis is significantly reduced due to timely intervention. We have experienced too many stories of young people passing, including beloved 

Rich, Gabe, Neil and Jennifer. We have also had the privilege of working alongside colorectal cancer thrivers like LeAnn, Sarah, John, Kathi, and Sharon and so many more. With their stories and voices, HCB2 actively works to increase timely colorectal cancer screening through our Can We Talk? initiative. This work includes the funding of eight medical clinics and their colorectal cancer screening programs, conducting large community education and screening initiatives, providing risk pre-assessment during appearances with our inflatable colon, giving virtual and on-site presentations for civic groups, businesses, schools, and small groups, and last, but not least creating Public Service Announcements/PSAs and podcasts for those in the Central VA area and beyond.

Can We Talk? was created because of the silence that persists around colorectal cancer. The symptoms are often silent. The patient experiencing symptoms may be silent because it can be generally uncomfortable or embarrassing to discuss, even with their medical provider. The provider may be silent about recommending screening and sharing screening options with the patient due to too little time and inadvertently overlooking symptoms and risks in younger people.This has got to stop! No matter the recommended screening age adopted by each state, colorectal cancer will continue to take loved ones lives if the silence is not broken. HCB2 has identified this challenge and takes steps in every program, service, and educational message to break through the wall of silence and move people to become more proactive with their wellness. We hope to keep this conversation going with you. Leave a comment and let us know how we can serve you and our community.

This information is provided as part of our Can We Talk? initiative. To learn more, click here.

Salt! More or less?

Salt! More or less?

Hitting Cancer Below the Belt (HCB2) has considered salt an important component of our healing belly basket since the program’s inception in 2016. Full of minerals and electrolytes, salt helps our muscles move, helps our nerves function, keeps our body fluids balanced, and so much more! We strongly recommend unrefined salt over the highly processed white table salt as it is heavily refined. In contrast, unrefined sea salt, celtic salt and pink salt offer not only sodium and chloride (i.e. salt), but several other electrolytes and minerals, including trace amounts of magnesium that is critical to optimal bodily function.

The recommendation to smartly add salt, and not less, may seem contradictory to conventional dietary guidelines, but we are not alone in this recommendation. Researchers like Dr. James DiNicolantonio of Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute, suggests in his book, The Salt Fix, that quality salt intake is essential to the management and prevention of disease, including heart disease!

The body’s need for salt is likely to vary from person to person as well as day to day. You may need more or less depending on certain health conditions, level of physical activity, and salt intake from foods. For instance, experiencing chronic stress or participating in a moderate/intense exercise program can create a need for additional unrefined salt in your diet. Listen to your body and don’t hesitate to do the research for yourself.

We are not encouraging readers to add salt with reckless abandon, especially in its inferior form as table salt. We strongly suggest refraining from consuming heavily processed fast and packaged foods that are often loaded with refined salt and include other low-quality additives such as refined sugars. HCB2 advocates for the consumption of real, whole foods including healthy fats, clean fruits and vegetables, clean proteins, along with unrefined salt.

Feel free to check out the HCB2 Fight Right Anti-Inflammatory Grocery List for more information on eating in ways that can help reduce the burden on our bodies. You will find some suggestions for unrefined salt included on the list. So push away that table salt shaker and discover other ways to give your meal a salty sprinkle. Your body will thank you!

Start the Conversation

Can We Talk?  I just need a moment. This one, short conversation could be a game changer for you and your family. Unfortunately, this brief conversation is rarely started and loved ones suffer. HCB2 sparks conversations that are just hard to start. So what does HCB2 want to talk about?

We want to talk about your potty time – yep, potty time is no longer private time here at HCB2! We want to unlock the silence that is allowing a deadly disease to thrive. It’s critical to de-shame topics such as elimination, poop, gas, bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and blood in stool.  Additionally, we want loved ones to talk about their family history as opposed to avoiding the conversation. Moreover, we hear the words ‘colon, rectal, or anal cancer’ whispered softly ‘out of respect’ or to avoid shaming the patient or lost loved one. Enough!  HCB2 understands how the avoidance of this discussion leads to heartache, and how we unintentionally keep colorectal cancer alive and well with our silence.

HCB2 has created a one page form with six simple questions you can use to start the conversation with loved ones. Six easy questions which help to break through the silence.The questions may lead to laughter, may lead to more questions, or may lead to a more serious discussion. Whatever the tone of the conversation, the silence has been broken, new information has been learned, and ultimately, lives may be saved.

See attached link for the CanWeTalk.pages which can provide assistance in starting the conversation and it provides information about symptoms and screening options. After your conversation, share your experiences with us! We would love to hear from you. Email info@hcb2.org. Start the conversation #cancerhatesthat