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Healthy You

Colon Cancer: Prevention and What You Can Do

March 11, 2020 2:00 PM with Michael Sprang

No one really likes to think about colon cancer, but it's something one in twenty people will be diagnosed with. 

Colon Cancer Procedure

Ask your questions live of Dr. Michael Sprang, MD, from NorthShore's Gastroenterology department. Hear about lifestyle changes, prevention and the importance of colon cancer screening. Get your questions in live during the chat, or ask them now and we will have them ready for the doctor the day of.

Ben (Moderator) - 1:51 PM:
Welcome to NorthShore University HealthSystem's latest chat: Colon Cancer: Prevention and What You Can Do with Dr. Michael Sprang, Gastroenterology. The chat will not begin for another 10 minutes, but please start submitting any questions you may have now.

Michael Sprang - 2:00 PM:
Welcome to Colon Cancer: Prevention and What You Can Do. I look forward to any questions you may have.

  Mary (Mundelein, IL) - 2:00 PM:
If my father had colon cancer, what are the stats on me developing colon cancer?
Michael Sprang
There are many variables that affect your risk of colon cancer. The age of onset, additional family history, and other risk factors can change this risk. Based on the current guidelines a family history of colon cancer in a 1st-degree relative does put you in a higher risk group, and you should begin screenings earlier. The recommendation is to start at 40 years old, or 10 years earlier than he was diagnosed, assuming he was diagnosed younger than 65.

  Andy (Chicago, IL) - 2:04 PM:
Are colonics safe/recommended?
Michael Sprang
The concept of a colonic involves cleaning the colon out with multiple fluids having been used over time. This can sometimes be used to help improve symptoms of constipation. The general suggestion is that oral agents are recommended to treat constipation as the first line. There are multiple options available that should be exhausted prior to considering enemas or colonics. the routine use of a colonic is not recommended given some risks of injury or perforation.

  Olga (Vernon Hills, IL) - 2:09 PM:
Hello, I have PROCTITIS, should I worry about it. Thanks
Michael Sprang
This is a trickier question, as additional information would need to be known to answer this accurately. This may be a more personal conversation that any of our gastroenterologists would be happy to have with you offline. There are multiple forms of proctitis that have different risks. Infections, medications, inflammatory conditions, and trauma require different interventions and carry different risks.

  Bev (Evanston, IL) - 2:17 PM:
How does stomach inflammation tie to colon cancer?
Michael Sprang
This is an interesting question as the answer is not as clear. There are multiple forms of stomach inflammation, some of which have been associated with increased risks of colon cancer. A form of Inflammatory bowel disease known as Crohn's can present as gastric inflammation and be associated also with colonic inflammation with an increase colon cancer risk. Additionally H pylori is a bacteria that can cause stomach inflammation and has been found in some studies to be associated with increased Colon cancer risk. In general, more generic stomach inflammation is not as clearly directly linked to colon cancer

  Alexus (Chicago, IL) - 2:26 PM:
What are some of the side effects of the drugs used to treat colon cancer?
Michael Sprang
The drugs used to treat colon cancer generally fall under the category of chemotherapy. There are multiple forms of chemotherapy some of which are very narrowly focused on specific gene markers and have minimal side effects, while others have significant systemic side effects as they affect any rapidly dividing cells throughout the entire body. The benefit that these medications have on reducing the colon cancer usually outweighs the side effects, except in rare cases. It is important to note that the best therapy for colon cancer is to catch it before it gets tot the point where chemotherapy is needed. Colon cancer usually grow very slowly over a decade. if caught with screening colonoscopy while it is a small polyp it can be resected and removed without any need for medications or additional therapy.

  Tom (Chicago, IL) - 2:34 PM:
Is there a specific diet for colon cancer prevention?
Michael Sprang
There is not a specific diet for colon cancer prevention, but there are many big picture recommendations which have been associated with lower risks. A focus on decreasing animal fats in your diet with increased fruits and vegetables for a higher fiber diet has been associated with lower colon cancer risks. Other modified risk factors for colorectal cancer includes regular alcohol consumption and smoking both of which should be limited or avoided to limit risks. There is also an association of obesity with colorectal cancer which would fall under diet- but which has more complicated additional variables involved.

  Jennifer (Niles, IL) - 2:44 PM:
Beyond a colonoscopy, are there other things I can do to prevent colon cancer?
Michael Sprang
In addition to screening colonoscopy as the gold standard for colon cancer prevention, The best way to prevent colon cancer is to change your modifiable risk factors for developing it. While you cannot change your genetics or family history, many of the risk factors for colorectal cancer are lifestyle-related. there are many effective lifestyle changes that are recommended. Avoidance of smoking would be the first and most important change. Limiting alcohol intake and not drinking to excess. Maintaining a healthy weight and exercise. Maintaining a healthy diet high in fiber and low in saturated fat.

  Tressa Pruitt (Chicago, IL) - 2:50 PM:
After being diagnosed with Colon cancer, how often do you need to have a colonoscopy?
Michael Sprang
Once a colon cancer is diagnosed the usual therapy is to resect that section of the colon surgically to ensure no residual cancer is present. After this is done surveillance colonoscopy is performed at 1 3 and 5 years after the procedure, and then every 5 years to ensure there is no recurrence.

  Dave (Skokie, IL) - 2:53 PM:
Are there any other warning signs of colon cancer besides changes in the stool?
Michael Sprang
Unfortunately the most common complaint with colon cancer is none at all. Symptoms can sometimes help us but are more common once it is more advanced. Symptoms that would be concerning would include change in the stool where it gets very narrow like a pencil. Blood in the stool and weight loss without trying can also be worrisome. More systemic complaints of fatigue, night sweats, and pain are not as specific but can also occur.

Ben (Moderator) - 3:00 PM:
Thank you, Dr. Sprang, for your time and expertise. A complete transcript of the chat will be available on northshore.org shortly.

Michael Sprang - 3:01 PM:
Thank you for attending our webinar on Colon Cancer: Prevention and What You Can Do. We have discussed the options for lifestyle modification that we can all take to reduce our risk of colorectal cancer. It is important to remember that Colon cancer is one of the only cancers that has a screening which catches it before it is malignant and allows for early and effective intervention. We at North Shore are happy to offer both screening services as well as lifestyle modification counseling at any of our 5 hospitals
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