The Digestive Disease Consultants are intensifying our war on Colorectal Cancer. We are not alone in our battle against this quiet killer. We have powerful allies in the CDC (Center for Disease Control,) the American Cancer Society, and thousands of institutions, physicians and communities across America.
In fact, we join all of them, as we announce March has been designated as Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.
A Colorectal Cancer Mini-Case: The Lady, the Lesson and the Cancer
We begin this week’s blog with a short story, a mini-case study in human feelings. This is a special story for you. It’s fictionalized, but it symbolizes an important fact. If you are diagnosed with colorectal cancer, it is not a death sentence unless you wait too long. Unfortunately, many of the colorectal cases we have seen recently have waited to long for effective treatment.
We open with a mother, Gina, and her 5 year old, Laura, as they walk on a sunny cemetery pathway. They are departing the untimely funeral of Gina’s fifty three year old mother.
Gina is solemn as she holds her little girl’s hand. But, six year old Laura is bouncing along the side-walk with fascination about the entire experience.
Colorectal Cancer: An Enemy without Respect or Dignity.
The mother had endured such questions as “How can grandma breathe?” And now, as Laura suddenly stopped and froze in thought, Gina listened with stoic patience.
“Mama, grandma is going to be awfully mad about this whole thing.”
“What do you mean, Laura?”
“Well, there’s no place for her to go to do number two in that box. Mommy, there’s no bathroom in that little box. She’ll say it’s ungundified.”
The little girl’s eyes misted with sudden, sad confusion and Gina scooped up her daughter in a hug. She fought tears of her own. “You mean undignified, Laura?” “Yes. That’s what your grandma would say.”
“Yeah, she’d hate it, Mommy.”
Laura sniffed tears and snuggled against her mother’s neck. Gina’s tears fell, too. She carried the child and walked as she remembered her mother’s lady-like bathroom distress.
At the beginning of the year Grandma had hated the entire undignified idea of a colorectal cancer screening. Besides she felt fine and young for her age. She delayed.
Later, the lady-like grandma hated discussing her undignified bathroom problems.
Still later, she thought her diarrhea, abdominal pain and especially the rectal bleeding were too embarrassing to discuss, even with a doctor. Sadly, these are exactly the symptoms of the disease in its later stages.
Finally, she was horrified at the indignity and vague discomfort of the colonoscopy. She put it off. She delayed it all.
Then it was too late. Within the year, she lost her valiant and messy fight with colorectal cancer.
Colorectal Cancer: An Enemy without Mercy or Dignity
During her final hospital stay, Grandmother declared that cancer was really undignified compared to the tests. Little Laura, sitting on the foot of her grandmother’s bed, had asked her the meaning of the word “ungundified.” The child’s mispronunciation of “undignified” had made the dying woman laugh. She knew now that there were lots worse things than a colonoscopy.
The memory of those last days, and the irony of Laura’s concern for Grandma’s lady-like bathroom dignity in the coffin made Laura almost smile. Gina patted her daughter’s back.
A week later, although she felt a little young for it, Gina made an appointment for her own colonoscopy at her doctor’s recommendation. And she did not care a bit if it was “ungundified.”
Colorectal War: Facts from the Frontlines
So we of the Digestive Disease Consultants in beautiful Orlando are dedicating our next four blogs to help you understand the symptoms, risk factors and treatments associated with this quiet killer.
- We call it quiet because in the early stages it has no symptoms. It is in later stages that it shows up in bowel problems, abdominal pain and bleeding. Even then, genteel patients like Gina’s mother in the story above, are reluctant to take their tests. Then, it is often too late for effective treatment.
- We call it a killer because one in twenty-one American men, and one in twenty-four American men are at a life-time risk of facing this disease.
- We are facing the challenge of 50,260 deaths predicted by the American Cancer Society for 2017. At DDC Orlando, we think that’s too many. We are pledged to reduce the casualties from this disease. Our weapons are patient education, and new technology for screening and testing as well as treatment for Colorectal cancer.
- Colorectal cancer has been christened as the second highest cancer killer of men in the country and the third highest slayer of women.
These statistics are distressing. What makes it heart-rending for health professionals is the fact that many of these deaths are preventable with cancer screening and tests. There are one million survivors enjoying their families because their colorectal cancer was erradicated due to early testing. These statistics have been steadily improving with patient awareness.
To para-phrase an old television show, “We can make you better. We can make you stronger. We have the technology…We have the capability…”
Colorectal Cancer: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly
The Good: You see, if you have stage I colorectal cancer, you have a 87 to 92 percent chance of surviving for at least five years with treatment.
The Bad: Conversely, many patients procrastinate testing and the cancer grows and spreads.
The Ugly: The longer you neglect or delay testing and treatment, the worse the condition becomes. It soon becomes stage V colorectal cancer, which heartlessly grants you only an 11 percent chance of the five year survival rate.
So, please do not dismiss our passionate advice when we tell you about the importance of that screening or the value of that colonoscopy. The professionals at the DDC of Orlando are keeping our message clear and simple and bright as a scalpel.
Colorectal Cancer: Help Us Beat the Estimated Casualties.
It is ironic that the month of March is the chosen month for Colorectal Cancer Awareness, because we are engaged in a march against the odds of statistics.
By 2018 we have vowed to have at least 80 per cent of 50 year old patients screened for this killer disease.
If you will pardon a small pun, now is the time we are committed to halting the insidious death-March of colorectal cancer.
We paraphrase the words of Dr. Richard Wender of the American Cancer Society, as we share a simple message:
1. Every single one of us are at risk for an attack from this quiet killer.
2. To mitigate the risk of dying from colorector cancer, we must get screened.
3. You have options for screening. On the one hand, you could take a colonoscopy every 10 years. On the other hand, you could endure a painless, simple home stool blood test each year.
4. With this option, you need only take the colonoscopy if the home stool blood test reveals blood. If it is positive for blood, then you will need the colonoscopy. Take time off work, find a ride and get it done. You have your own life to save. These are two of your most powerful weapons to fight off the killer disease.
Without these precautions, chances are you won’t be saying the fun old movie quote, “Dude, Where’s My Car?” You’ll be saying, “Dude, where’s my life? And somewhere a little girl like Laura will be crying softly for her grandparent.