Tami’s story: Know your risk for colorectal cancer

Written by Community Health Network on 10/30/2013 9:30:00 AM

Tami Schwenk, a 50-year old Central Indiana woman with a family history of colon cancer says, “Having a colonoscopy to screen for colon cancer just makes good sense. It’s preventive care that gives you control.” Tami’s father was diagnosed with colon cancer three years ago. She knows we all have risk factors for cancer: "The work we do, our family history for colorectal cancer or adenomatous polyps, genetic background, and our overall health and diet all play a role." Meet Tami in this video

Another thing people may not know: Individuals with Type 2 diabetes or who have a history of inflammatory bowel disease including ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease all have a higher risk for developing colon cancer. Long-term smokers are at risk for many types of cancer from colorectal to lung, larynx (voice box), mouth, throat, esophagus, kidney and bladder cancer.

Colon cancer can also affect younger adults, although 9 out of 10 people are diagnosed after the age of 50. Of all ethnic groups, more African Americans have colon cancer and also die from colon cancer, possibly because they are diagnosed when the cancer is more aggressive and has spread beyond the large intestine. When the cancer is localized to the colon, survival after five years is 90 percent, so it's essential to catch the cancer early. A genetic prevalence for colon cancer is found in Jews of Eastern European descent (Ashkenazi Jews) having the gene mutations called I1307K APC, which is present in approximately 6% of American Jews.

The following lifestyle factors also add up to a higher risk for colorectal cancer:

  • Diets high in red meats and processed meat
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Heavy alcohol use

Know the risks and know what to doing about it.

Talk to your physician about your risk and concerns,” adds Tami. To watch the live webcast of Tami’s colonoscopy, visit www.eCommunity.com/coloncancer. You'll also find several interviews with Tami, the Community Regional Cancer Center staff and colorectal surgeon, Dr. Shekar Narayanan.

Ask your physician about common screening tests for colorectal cancer.

The fecal occult blood test is recommended by the American Cancer Society, the US Preventive Services Taskforce, and other medical groups. There are two types of tests, both considered highly-sensitive: Guaiac-based fecal occult blood tests (FOBT), referred to as Hemmocult Sensa, and fecal immunochemical tests (FIT). Screening for colorectal cancer with FOBT or FIT tests has been shown to decrease both incidence and mortality of this cancer. But no test is 100 percent sensitive to the presence of cancer.

Another minimally-invasive outpatient test, the colonoscopy, is literally a scope that looks at the inside of the large intestine, the lining of the colon and suspicious polyps. Prior to this outpatient procedure, the patient needs to flush the large intestine with a magnesium citrate oral drink and before the procedure starts the patient often gets local anesthesia so the procedure is pain-free. The entire procedure takes 10-15 minutes. The physician is also able to record a digital video of what the scope sees and these pictures become a baseline for future screenings. In many cases,  the physician can also remove obtrusive polyps (or non–cancerous growths). While the patient will feel groggy coming out of the colonoscopy procedure and rest for the remainder of the day, most patients resume full activities the next day.

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To make an appointment with an MD Anderson Cancer Network® certified physician at Community, call 800-777-7775 today!

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Community Health Network is the first healthcare organization to achieve system-wide recognition by MD Anderson Cancer Network® as a certified member. The five hospital locations providing qualified cancer services in the network have met the rigorous standards to treat cancer patients with MD Anderson evidence-based guidelines and best practices. Learn more.