On September 7, Dr. Oz will discuss that he had a colon polyp and what you can do if it happens to you. He, of course, called Dr. Mike Roizen. It was then that I told him I did too (at age 53) and what I did, and am, doing about it. But before you can see the show, here's what you might do: Get screened, and keep your colon healthy with these tricks and treats.
Your chance of getting colon or rectal cancer during your life is about 6%, 6 chances out of a hundred. Your chances are higher if you ignore our advice or have a relative with this cancer. Colon cancer screening is recommended for typical people starting at 50 and if nothing is found, every 10 years to prevent colon cancer. While cancer screening may not be your first choice for a birthday present, give that opportunity to yourself the way Dr. Oz did this past month (and Dr Mike did on his 50th). Colon cancer usually arises in pre-malignant lesions called (get ready for the super science lingo!) adenomas, a kind of polyp. It takes roughly 10 years for polyps to turn into cancer, so removal (like Drs. Oz and Roizen had) before it becomes malignant can prevent cancers. Seems logical, right? That's a great birthday present to give or receive.
A few years ago, experts would say the best test is “the one you'll accept.” There are many options, and choosing one is sort of like trying to choose the perfect pan. All pans are used to cook things, but certain ones are particularly good at cooking specific foods. Therefore, the screening test you choose may not be the best choice for your neighbor.
Ask your doc these questions:
What preparation and convenience is involved?
What it cost and will insurance cover?
What’s my risk?
Screening is meant to be repeated. So your choices may change over time. That's A-OK.
A stool blood test – The technical name for it is a High-Sensitivity FOBT. Your doc will give you a special stick or brush (yup, you get to participate actively in this option!). Use this tool (at home) to obtain stool for your doc to check for blood. While you do not have to empty your colon before doing this test, certain medications and foods cannot be ingested 3 days before the test.
A stool test for abnormal DNA – This test looks for DNA mutations, from precancerous polyps or cancer. You can participate actively by collecting stool samples. Neither colon emptying nor dietary changes required.
Barium X-ray – This is a radiological test to view the inner colon. While sedation is not required, it does involve inserting a lubricated tube into the rectum. Solid food cannot be eaten the day before; you have to empty your colon, and the test takes 20 to 40 minutes.
Virtual colonoscopy – An imaging test using computerized tomography (CT) technology. The scan generates 2 and 3 dimensional images of your abdominal organs. It does not require sedation or the insertion of a tube into your colon. The test takes 10 minutes, and you may have to adjust your medications. You cannot eat solid food the day before and have to empty your colon.
Flexible sigmoidoscopy – This is a direct inspection of your rectum and the lower part of your colon using a camera in a flexible tube that is inserted into the rectum. Sedation is not required and samples of potentially abnormal tissue (biopsies) can be taken during the exam, which takes about 15 minutes. But you may have to adjust medications prior to the test, you cannot eat solid food the day before, and need an empty colon.
Colonoscopy – this test that Drs. Oz and Roizen both had that detected their polyps. It involves direct inspection of your rectum and your colon with a long flexible tube (including camera) that is inserted into your rectum, just like in the sigmoidoscopy. However, in a colonoscopy, your doc can examine the inside of your entire colon with to see if polyps or cancer are present. If polyps are present, they can be removed during the test. Sedation is not required, but it is recommended. The exam can take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour. You may have to adjust medications prior to the test, you cannot eat solid food the day before the exam, and you have to empty your colon.
While screening is crucial, so are the choices you can make to help keep your colon clear and you pooping like a champ. Make these adjustments as early as possible and become a role model for your teenagers (that's when you and the YOU Docs should have started, but we didn't know better).
Avoid 2 food felons: Saturated fat and Trans fats. Saturated fat, found in meat, poultry skin, full-fat dairy foods, and palm and coconut oils causes your genes to create oxidative inflammation – increasing your lousy LDL cholesterol, but that is a minor health effect compared to the inflammation it causes. Inflammatory stress ages your arteries and promotes cancer-causing damage to your DNA, so limit yourself to about 4 ounces of red or dark meat (less is better) a week. Ugly, wrinkly-causing trans fats, are still pumped into many snack foods and commercial desserts because they increase shelf life. Trans fats have no redeeming nutritional value and increase the chance your beneficiaries will cash your life insurance policy. They also damage the mucus that protects your intestine.
Get moving. Walking and any physical activity increases your chance of having a clean colonoscopy report.
Quit smoking. Kicking the habit and avoiding second hand smoke (as well as barbequed meats) protects your colon by reducing the inflammation your body has to fight.
Some not as well established hints from Dr. Roizen:
Get marinated (not in alcohol) and D3'ed (vitamin D3) – at least 1000 IU a day; and yes, marinating foods in vinegar and/or olive oil decreases carcinogens from the barbeque – all they need is 15 minutes.
Get 400 mcg of folate in supplements and an equal amount in food.
Love crucifers like broccoli, arugula and cauliflower. There is data to suggest all help decrease in the occurrences and recurrences of polyps.
Feast on fiber-licious foods. At least 25 grams a day keeps that colon happy. Trust us, we're docs. They might not decrease colon cancer but will help keep you moving.
Remember, while poop used to be embarrassing, it is much better to poop than not to. So get colon cancer screened.