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Colon Cancer Warning Signs and Screening Options

colon cancer warning

If you are 50 years or older you need to get tested for colon cancer, earlier if you have symptoms such as rectal bleeding, change in bowel habits, or have a family history of colon cancer. You have the power to PREVENT colon cancer—not just find it early.

Early colorectal cancers usually have no symptoms—making regular screenings essential. However, if you start to experience one or more symptoms, you should talk to your doctor about the screening options available to you.

Signs and Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer

  • A change in bowel habits, such as diarrhea, constipation, or narrowing of the stool, that lasts for more than a few days
  • A feeling that you need to have a bowel movement that is not relieved by doing so
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Blood in the stool, which may make it look dark
  • Cramping or abdominal (belly) pain
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Unintended weight loss

Colorectal cancers can often bleed into the digestive tract. While sometimes the blood can be seen in the stool or make it look darker, often the stool looks normal. But over time, the blood loss can build up and can lead to low red blood cell counts (anemia). Sometimes the first sign of colorectal cancer is a blood test showing a low red blood cell count.

Patient Story: Sue was healthy and didn’t have any family history of colorectal cancer. And yet, at 47 years old, she was diagnosed with the cancer. Click here to read Sue’s inspiring story of how she fought through this cancer and why you should get screened.

Colon Cancer Screening Options

  • Sigmoidoscopy: This is the same as a colonoscopy except only about the first two feet of the colon are examined. Only the lower portion of the bowel needs to cleanse. This is usually completed by taking several enemas prior to the test. Sedation is not usually given for a sigmoidoscopy. If a polyp is found, it is recommended you have a colonoscopy to examine the rest of the colon.
  • CT Colongraphy (also called a Virtual Colonoscopy): Air is used to distend the colon and an X-ray of the abdomen is performed. A 3-D image is created of the colon & rectum and then interpreted by a radiologist to look for polyps and cancer. A bowel prep is required. (The same medication you would take for a colonoscopy.) No sedation is needed.
  • Stool Sample Testing
    • Option One: Your doctor will give you a home kit to collect a small stool sample. Once collected, the kit needs to be returned to the laboratory. The stool sample is examined for occult (hidden) blood. The blood could indicate a bleeding polyp or cancer. If blood is found, it is recommended you have a colonoscopy to find the reason for the blood.
    • Option Two: This test collects a larger stool sample and is returned to a special laboratory where they check for occult (hidden) blood and abnormal DNA markers which would indicate cancer. If the test is positive, it is recommended you have a colonoscopy.
  • Colonoscopy: A colonoscopy is an examination in which a doctor inserts a thin tube with a camera into the rectum and up into the colon (the large intestine). The doctor is looking for small growths, called polyps, which sometimes can become cancerous. Click here to read more about colonoscopies.

Take Action
Talk to your doctor about what screening option is best for you. Find a doctor near you at Affinity or Ministry.

Fatigue or heart attack or stroke?

When minutes matter…do you know the signs?

Knowing the signs of heart attack and stroke can help you save a life – and quality of life.

According to the American Heart Association, coronary heart disease is the number 1 cause of death in the United States, while stroke holds the number 3 spot.

Not only is it important to reduce your own risk of heart attack or stroke, it is important for you to recognize the signs so you can help others.

Heart Attack

Some heart attacks create sudden and intense symptoms, leaving no doubt that something is seriously wrong. Others are more insidious, causing less noticeable discomfort while damaging heart muscle. By observing and recognizing the signs of heart attack, you may be able to save a person’s life and may be just as importantly, preserve a person’s quality of life.

What to look for during a heart attack
A person suffering a heart attack may experience:

Chest discomfort such as the feelings of pressure, squeezing, fullness, or intense pain that lasts a few minutes and goes away.
In response to chest pain, a person may place his or her hand on or rub the chest.

Pain or discomfort in either or both arms, the back, the neck, the jaw or the stomach. If you see someone touching or rubbing those areas of his or her body, he or she might be experiencing discomfort as the pain ebbs and flows.


Shortness of breath
It may be hard for the person to carry on a conversation. If shortness of breath is severe feelings of anxiety might also be reflected in a person’s facial expression, signaling that he or she is not okay.

Even though the temperature has not changed, the person experiencing a heart attack may start sweating and mopping his or her brow.

Nausea or Dizziness
People experiencing nausea or dizziness, may react by holding their heads in their hands, leaning on their arms, or putting their heads down.

Numbness of the arms
A person whose arms are numb or tingling may rub his or her arms to relieve the numbness.

Unexplained weakness or fatigue
Someone experiencing fatigue or weakness may become noticeably lethargic, move slowly, lean, try to lie down, or try to sleep. Unexplained weakness or fatigue and sleep disturbance and are the most common heart attack symptoms for women.

Unexplained anxiety
A person suffering heart attack may become anxious which will be noticeable through facial expressions and movements. Anxiety is another common sign in a woman suffering a heart attack.

When heart attack strikes, the person’s face may become pale.

Complaints of an upset stomach, repositioning in a chair, or rubbing the stomach may be the cues that a woman is experiencing a heart attack. Watch carefully and look for other symptoms since indigestion is a common problem for many people.

If you notice any of these signs, ask how the person is feeling. If you believe he or she is having a heart attack, call 911 immediately. Emergency medical staff will arrive with the equipment necessary to assist the person if heart attack is occurring.


Another life changing attack to watch for is stroke.

Stroke and its symptoms happen suddenly. If you suspect a stroke, act fast by calling 911.
You may save someone’s ability to live life to the fullest.

A person suffering from stroke may experience one of the five following symptoms:

  1. Sudden numbness or weakness, especially on one side of the body.
    Look at the face. Ask the person to smile or raise both arms above his or her head. If movements are not symmetrical, it may be a sign of stroke.
  2. Sudden inability to talk or understand.
    Ask the person his or her name or the color of an object. A person suffering a stroke may not be able to understand your question or tell you the answer.
  3. Sudden sight or vision problems.
    A person experiencing stroke may not be able to focus, may rub his or her eyes to try to clear them, or may squint. The sight problem may occur in one or both eyes.
  4. Sudden loss of balance, coordination or trouble walking.
    The person who was walking normally before may stagger and bump into objects.
  5. Sudden severe headache.
    Rubbing the temples or clutching the head is the indication of a severe headache. Severe, sudden headaches with no explainable cause should be checked by a health care provider.

Minutes count. Know the signs. Seek help. Save a life. Save quality of life.

How many lookalike poisons are in your house?

lookalike poison

Every 30 seconds in the United States, a child is poisoned. Most children under five years of age are poisoned when they eat or drink products that look like flavored drinks or candy.

These products may smell pleasant, may have a sweet taste or may just have a similar appearance to something edible. Often small children will eat or drink something with a pungent smell or bitter taste because they think it is candy.

If you have small children in or visiting your home, it’s important to consider how some of your everyday products look through their eyes.

  • Pills often look like colorful candies.
  • Pine cleaner looks like apple juice.
  • Aspirin is often the same size and color as mints.
  • Pesticides used to kill mice or moles look like sunflower seeds.
  • Laundry and dishwasher detergent pods can be mistaken for marshmallow candies.
  • Nicotine gum looks exactly the same as child-safe gum.
  • Laxatives and chocolate bars look and taste similar.
  • Some household cleaners have a grainy texture and are in the same type of can as grated Parmesan cheese.
  • Transmission fluid looks a lot like fruit punch.
  • Window cleaner could be mistaken for ice-blue sports drinks.

In addition to these look-alikes, we now have gummy bear vitamins, cold medications you add to water bottles, and chocolate and caramel calcium chews that small children can easily confuse with candy.

Awareness is the key to keeping little children safe.

Store household cleaners, medications, and other liquids up and away from a child’s reach.

Store household cleaners, medications, and other liquids up and away from a child’s reach. Looking at products through the eyes of a child may prevent an accidental poisoning in your family.

You may also be interested in these look-alike poison resources.

Mistaken Identity Poster

Teaching Poison Prevention to Children Grades K – 3 from the Florida Poison Information Center

Is your child distracted at school?

Have you ever found a grade on your child’s report card that seems to be below his or her abilities?

This may indicate poor study habits, a behavior problem or indicate an underlying medical condition.

Distractibility in kids can be due to learning disabilities, situational stress or trauma, abnormal lead levels, vision or hearing abnormalities.

So what can you do?

If you suspect a vision problem, schedule an appointment with an optometrist.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, 20 percent of children become nearsighted during their school years.

Symptoms of a vision problem

  • Does your child complain about headaches?
  • Does your child rub his or her eyes often?
  • Does your child’s eyes water?
  • Are your child’s eyes sensitive to light?
  • Does your child squint or cock his or her to one side when looking at something, whether near or far away?
  • Does your child need to close one of his or her eyes to see clearly?
  • Does your child sit too close to the TV or hold books close to his or her face when reading?

If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, you may want to have your child’s vision tested. If you do not have an optometrist, you could ask your primary care provider for a recommendation. Vision problems

Hearing problems can also cause frustration in the classroom. An audiologist can determine if your child is suffering from a hearing loss. Researchers at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, concluded that even minimal hearing loss can affect academic progress. A child with a hearing loss in one ear is 10 times more likely to have academic difficulties.

Dyslexia or attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADD or ADHD) may cause your child difficulties at school. Up to 12 percent of the school-aged population have ADD or ADHD, while 15 – 20 percent of the population have some degree of dyslexia, which affects a person’s ability to read, write or calculate.

Twenty percent of children with learning disabilities struggle with attention problems in the classroom.

Distraction in class may also be caused by emotional upheaval that a child is dealing with at home. A child who experiences loss, strife in the home, bullying at school or a similar stressful situation may feel anxious or depressed.

Other problems in academic performance may need to be evaluated by educational professionals through standardized academic tests or motor skill assessments. Contact your child’s school’s guidance office for more information.

When to get help for your child

If you suspect that your child may have a learning disability, it is important to get help for child as soon as possible. Make sure that you enlist the services of your health care provider and the educational professionals that can support you and your child throughout the process. The earlier the disability is identified, the easier it is for the child to learn new ways to compensate and succeed.

For more information on possible medical reasons for poor school performance, talk to your health care provider or locate a provider in your area with Affinity or Ministry.

March is National Nutrition Month

fresh fruits vegetables

Every year in the month of March, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) celebrates National Nutrition Month to raise awareness for the importance of making smart food choices and developing thoughtful eating and physical activity habits.

This year’s theme for National Nutrition month is “Put Your Best Fork Forward.” The theme recognizes that individuals have the ability to make healthy food choices in their lives. Even small, positive changes can have impact overtime.

A diet goal for individuals could be to increase diet variety. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans defines diet variety as, “A diverse assortment of foods and beverages across and within all food groups and subgroups selected to fulfill the recommended amounts without exceeding the limits for calories and other dietary components.”

Basically, this is saying that variety is like getting all the good benefits from food without getting too much food and exceeding calories. Food can provide the following nutrients: water, protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals. Certain foods are higher in one type of nutrient, and some have multiple nutrients. For example, non-fat yogurt provides protein, carbohydrates and the mineral calcium. Bananas provide carbohydrates, but they also provide the mineral potassium. The goal is to have a wide variety of foods to provide a spectrum of the nutrients.

Ways to Add Variety to Your Diet

Take a look at your typical weekly diet. Are you finding that you’re a little too routine and maybe don’t get enough variety? It can be very common for individuals to fall into a comfortable pattern, but I challenge you to increase your diet variety, and there are some ways of accomplishing this:

  • First, take a look at your fruit and vegetable intake—The goal is for individuals to have five, one cup servings of fruits and vegetables per day. Many Americans don’t accomplish this. Fresh, frozen, reduced-sodium canned and 100 percent juice products all count toward the goal of five servings. Increasing intake of fruits and vegetables increases your vitamin and mineral intake, which is great for our health.
  • Dust off that cookbook—Recipes and cookbooks can be a place for great inspiration. If you don’t already have cookbooks at home, I often recommend going to a resale shop or a discount book store to look for cookbooks that interest you. If you have access to the Internet, there are many consumer websites with reviews you can use too.
  • Experiment with vegetarian proteins—Plant-based protein foods are good for our bodies as they often provide fiber in addition to protein. Plant-based proteins include beans and legumes, soy, nuts, nut butters, and seeds. Starting with beans as a substitute for meat in a recipe can be a good start.
  • Interchange your grains—Americans often consume wheat products, but there are other grains that are growing in popularity. Quinoa, farro, amaranth and barley, to name a few, are whole grains that provide carbohydrates, fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals. Grains can differ in the amount of vitamins and minerals they provide. So, varying can increase exposure to different nutrients.

Change can often times be difficult. Allow yourself time to vary your routine. If you still feel like you’re struggling with meal planning and choosing healthy foods, reach out to a local registered dietitian.

Source: National Nutrition Month Toolkit from www.eatright.org

Disclaimer: The information found on Affinity's blog is a general educational aid. Do not rely on this information or treat it as a substitute for personal medical or health care advice, or for diagnosis or treatment. Always consult your physician or other qualified health care provider as soon as possible about any medical or health-related question and do not wait for a response from our experts before such consultation. If you have a medical emergency, seek medical attention immediately.

The Affinity Health System blog contains opinions and views created by community members. Affinity does endorse the contributions of community members. You should not assume the information posted by community members is accurate and you should never disregard or delay seeking professional medical advice because of something you have read on this site.