2 more reasons to get a colon cancer screening

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Last month I suggested in my post on Omega-3 for those with family history of polyps or prone to colon cancer to talk to their doctors for an early test for polyps in their colons.

Last week reading the following headline on Colon cancer test could save thousands in Britain puzzled me. Here are some of the highlights in that news:

  1. A five-minute colon cancer test could reduce the number of deaths from the disease by about 40 percent.
  2. In the U.K., government-funded colon cancer screening doesn’t start until age 60.
  3. In Britain, people aged 60 to 74 are tested every other year with a fecal blood test.
  4. Experts said the findings could make some authorities reconsider how they look for colon cancer.
  5. Worldwide, the disease causes 1 million cases and 600,000 deaths every year.

But there are also a few questions that bothered me beyond those headlines.

  • Why after 60? I got my first test here when I was 52?
  • Was this something to come in the near future with the new health care plan in the U.S.?

The most disturbing statement to me in the whole article, however, is the part that I have marked in bold below:

In the U.S., colonoscopies — 20-minute scans of the entire colon that require sedation — are common, even though no trials have proved they work for cancer screening. Use of the flexi-scope test has plummeted in the U.S. because colonoscopies are perceived as being better.

Wait a moment. Is that true? I then went to check Mayo Clinic websites and found the existing colon cancer screening tests in the U.S., which include:

  • Colonoscopy – an exam used to detect changes or abnormalities in the large intestine and rectum.
  • Fecal occult blood test – a lab test used to check stool samples for hidden (occult) blood.
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy – an exam used to evaluate the lower part of the colon.
  • DNA stool test – screens stool for DNA mutations, indicating the presence of precancerous polyps or colon cancer.
  • Barium enema – a special X-ray used to detect changes or abnormalities in the large intestine (colon).

While I didn’t find the prove or disprove of the statement that bothered me above, all these searching have reminded me the struggle of Dr. David T.S. Shu in his fights against colon cancer. You can find the summary of the story and his advices in his now famous Letter to Cancer Patients from a neurosurgeon and a 3rd stage colorectal cancer survivor.

Here are 2 more reasons that made me think why do we need to get a colon cancer screening early:

  • First the yahoo news that have made me to visit the Mayo Clinic page above. If you go there, you may read the Pros and Cons of each method and you may consult your doctor on which method to pick for your test. But as you may find at the end of the page there, some screening is better than no screening.
  • I’m not trying to scare you here, two days ago I attended a funeral service for the Team Lead in the office next door to our operations center. This is not the story about Dr. Shu, who is far away in Taiwan, or a statistic data from the Internet or news story, but I’m talking about someone from our – you and my life, that are being affected by cancer. This is also the very reason why am I here with this blog — To share wellness information with you, one story at a time.

Posted in colon cancer, Hearth Health, popular | Leave a comment

Over 60 and still able to chew peanuts

To most Americans, it’s not a big deal.

Most of us know someone over 60 that is still able to chew peanuts or other nuts using their teeth. But that isn’t the case in most third world countries, where oral hygiene and treating gum disease are not even in the top 10 priorities of most of the families there.

This is not simply a poverty or money problem. Some of the people with dental problems come from the families that could afford dental care. Thus aside from economic problems that affect most of the low income families, I believe ignorance is the biggest problem.

In January 2008, J. Sudiono of Trisakti University in Jakarta, Indonesia conducted an epidemiological survey to find features of degenerative diseases associated with loss of teeth in the elderly, and added another perspective to look into this problem. Her conclusion said: The loss of teeth was not associated with degenerative diseases, but may have been influenced by local factors such as a low demand for dental hygiene.

image by: red5standingby

The idea of writing this topic came up when I scanned the book, Reverse Heart Disease Now by Stephen T. Sinatra, M.D. and James C. Roberts, M.D. The next to last subsection talking about Oral Hygiene says that the bacteria and inflamation of common gum disease is linked to arterial inflamation. The pathogenic or disease causing bacteria migrate into the circulatory system and contribute to inflamation in the arteries.

This prompted me to dig into it further. However, what I found from the first two trusted sites that I visited really surprised me.

  • American Heart Association came up with a bold statement, saying: “At this time, promoting dental treatment expressly to prevent atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease and/or acute cardiovascular events is not recommended.
  • Mayo clinic described it best by telling its readers that oral health is the window to your overall health. However, Mayo Clinic seems to be a bit cautious too in connecting the oral health and Cardiovascular disease. Although in some research periodontal disease seems to be associated with heart disease, they wrote, more studies are needed before the link can be confirmed with certainty.

This made me ponder, how long will we have to wait to see the results? Fortunately, I found two other results as shown below and I believe, Time will tell:

  • The first is a report from Sweden on a new study following 7,674 subjects receiving a dental examination by specialists in periodontology between the years 1976-2002. They came up with the following conclusion: This fairly large, prospective study with a long follow-up period presents for the first time a dose-dependent relationship between number of teeth and both all-cause and CVD* mortality, indicating a link between oral health and CVD, and that the number of teeth is a proper indicator for oral health in this respect.
  • The second result I found in a Harvard Medical School Healthbeat flier. In step 9 of their advice on 10 steps toward a longer healthier life they said: Floss, brush, and see a dentist regularly. Poor oral health may have many repercussions, including poor nutrition, unnecessary pain, and possibly even a higher risk of heart disease and stroke

My feeling is, we are going to see more and more new results like these. However, like the resistance to the discovery of Pennicillin, we are going to see the same kind of resistance from the main stream medical community in dealing with new findings and always become Johny comes lately. What do you think?

One thing I know for sure is that a 60 year old person in the U.S. is still able to chew peanuts because s/he has access to routine dental care. A dental office visit would take care of most of the dental problems. Biannual teeth cleaning is another source that makes all the difference. From gingivitis or gum disease to cancer and other oral health problems, many illness would easily be detected and treated before causing the teeth to wooble around which will prevent them from chewing peanuts or other nuts.

Fortunately or unfortunately, most of the time we take little convenient like able to chew peanuts for granted and sometimes we forget, how lucky we are with all these dental and medical cares. What do you think?

*CVD: Cardiovascular disease.

Posted in Dental Health, Hearth Health, Oral Hygiene | Tagged , | 2 Comments

One more reason to take Omega-3 daily

Back in September 2009, Dr. Izzy said in this video that everybody should take omega-3 supplement daily.

On Sunday, Dr. Izzy added one more reasons for people to take omega-3 in a regular basis, especially for those who are prone to colon cancer with premalignant polyps in the bowel. There are evidences that taking this omega-3 fatty acids on a regular basis reduced significantly the risk of developing these polyps as Dr. Izzy mentions in the video.

Late in his life my father had problems with his colon. Based on the work of Dr. Gardner back in 1950th, most of the medical doctors know now that polyps and colon cancer are hereditary.

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That’s why family history is such an important factor for doctors to decide when and why someone needs to get a colonoscopy. They may find if those polyps are the ones that make someone prone to colon cancer or not.

When I was 52, my doctor asked me to get a colonoscopy because of my family history. I think they took out five or so polyps then, but I was told that all were benign. Two years ago, I went for my 5 years follow up. They took another polyp away but again, it was benign. Oops, that means another 3 years and I have to go again. Yuuk! 😆

Now let’s see what other experts said about this.

A search for “Omega 3 polyps” in pubmed site provided 18 references including:

  • the work of G. L. Eastwood in 1998, which cited a few references from late 1980 – 1990 on the use of omega 3 in cancer treatments.
  • the work of an Italian group back in 1992 which concluded that in their short-term trial, fish oil appeared to exert a rapid effect that may protect high-risk subjects from colon cancer, and
  • the lastest work that is published in British Medical Journal, March 2010 edition which says that the EPA holds promise as a colorectal cancer chemoprevention agent with a favourable safety profile.

However, all these research papers were written for the consumptions of medical community, and all of them are Greek to me. Fortunately, Guardian (UK) has translated the last paper on the list into a plain English report for people like you and me with no medical background, — Fish oil may reduce bowel cancer risk for genetically vulnerable. For example, instead of using EPA as in the title of the paper, which stands for Eicosapentaenoic acid, one of the two most widely studied omega-3 fatty acids, the author simply used Fish oil in his title.

  • If you need more info, I found that the Cleveland Clinic provides an easy to follow explanation that I believe was put up on to the website in 2006.
  • If you need a short description on what is the symptom of polyps and how to find it out, Mayo Clinic site provided a simple and easy to follow explanation and all related information one page at a time.

Here is what you can find about FAP on Cleveland Clinic site:

FAP is an inherited colorectal cancer syndrome and accounts for 1 percent of all cases of colorectal cancer. The “F” stands for familial, meaning it runs in families; “A” stands for adenomatous, the type of polyps detected in the colon and small intestine that can turn into cancer; and “P” stands for polyposis, or the condition of having lots of colon polyps. The gene for FAP is on the long arm of chromosome 5 and is called the APC gene.

Patients with FAP develop hundreds to thousands of colon polyps, usually starting in the teens. All patients will develop colorectal cancer from the colon polyps usually by age 40. Patients with FAP must have the colon, and sometimes the rectum, removed to prevent colon cancer.

Since the abnormal gene that causes FAP is present in all of the body’s cells, other organs may develop growths.

With all these info, definitely, I’m going to keep omega 3 in my daily supplements list. From the fact that polyps may start in our teens, I think if you have a family history of polyps or you are prone to colon cancer, please don’t wait until you reach my age before going to talk to your doctor. 🙂

Posted in cancer, colon cancer, Hearth Health, polyps, popular | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Surviving A Heart Attack

Last Monday, I bumped into my colleague F on my way out from our office building.

F just came back to work after surviving a heart attack last month. We were so happy for the fact that we were able to laugh at that very moment, since some of the people we knew didn’t make it like F. Some may say, F is lucky, some may say, F’s time in the big book has not come yet. But one thing is certain. Like many others before him who survived, F and these chosen few got the help they need just in time.

image by: gandhiji40

On that day when it happened F said, he had a very severe chest pain. The pain also felt down his left arm which was numbed too at that time. As soon as he arrived home, he asked his wife to drive him to the ER. I told F, that’s the step that made the difference and he survived. He should hug and thank his wife for that. We both recalled that one of our mutual friend lost his battle simply because he wanted to wait when his wife offered to take him to the ER.

Here is the summary of what the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute said about surviving a heart attack:

Fast action is your best weapon against a heart attack. Because clot-busting drugs and other artery-opening treatments can stop a heart attack in its tracks. They can prevent or limit damage to the heart–but they need to be given immediately after symptoms begin. The sooner they are started, the more good they will do–and the greater the chances are for survival and a full recovery. To be most effective, they need to be given ideally within 1 hour of the start of heart attack symptoms.

I was told that asking your spouse to take you to the ER would be okay if there was no other options. But the best way is to call 911 – or whatever number it is in your country. The EMT (at least here in the U.S.) are trained to handle the emergency if someone has a heart attack. They would also carry all the equipment they need to prevent the victim from further heart damage or dying. But to F and me, we could only said, thanks God it’s over. F left with a big smile when we parted that day.

These are some Surviving Heart Attack related websites that you may browse for more information.

  • National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute provides this easy to follow page, describing about what is heart attack and related info.
  • American Heart Association provides a dedicated page to describe Heart Attack, Stroke, Cardiac Arrest Warning Signs. Not only its easy to follow, the Heart Attack page contains links to Heart Attack related info that you don’t want to miss if you or someone you care have a heart problem.
  • WebMD Heart Disease Guide is another source of information. While you’re there, please don’t forget to take a look at the ‘Hot Topics in Heart Disease’ sidebar. I love these healthy foods for heart slide show there. From what I know, most of these foods are low glycemic index.
  • Avoid the Hoax. Finally, please, please! If you receive an email with the title, How to Survive a Heart Attack when Alone, don’t forward it to others. There are many websites like this one explaining that this is a hoax and it has been floating around on the Internet since 1999. I can’t believe it but it happens. Almost every 6 months or so someone with good intention would send me the same email.

Again, I’m so happy for my colleague F and his family. If you or someone you know have survived a heart attack or was a victim of a heart attack, please share with us here and let’s spread the words:

Even if you’re not sure it’s a heart attack, you should still have it checked out. Fast action can save lives-maybe your own,

which I quoted from this NHLBI page.

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Smoking May Hurt You in Bed – My Favorite Quit Smoking’s Story

Quit smoking is tough.

I know that because I went through that process a few times when I was young.

I still remember the date when I quit for good. It was March 11, 1986. For Indonesians under Soeharto’s Presidency, March 11 was a special day tied to the handover of the Presidency from former President Soekarno to General Soeharto. That made that day kept sticking in my mind during all these years.

Back then I was a newly hired Instructor at the Department of Electronics Engineering of Satya Wacana Christian University in Salatiga, Indonesia. Somehow at that date, for whatever reason that I’ve forgotten, an acquaintance of mine and I placed a bet, who was going to quit smoking for good. That was it.

I dont’ remember the details on how difficult it was, since it happened long time ago. But I went through the craving for nicotine, the frustrations, as well as the temper that came with that efforts, etc. Particularly prior to that time, at least I had tried 3 times to quit but went back to smoke again after a few months or a year or two. That’s why I’ve never looked down at people who couldn’t quit.

Recently, I saw a discussion in a mailing list I subscribed talking about the IQ of the smokers. By looking at the title alone I understood that the posting would make some smokers mad. I didn’t have time to read the contents, but I wouldn’t blame the smokers and didn’t join the fight. I only read one last emails in that thread when someone complaint about a response that he thought had crossed the line.

Recently, every time listened to people talked about Quit Smoking, Dr. Steven Lamm’s story always came to mind. It was a story I heard in a presentation Dr. Lamm gave while promoting his book – ‘The Hardness Factor’ in one of Market America Conventions I attended. Later on I found that story was in his book and here is part of what Dr. Lamm said:

Ben, a handsome 28 year old insurance broker, came in recently with a complaint of bronchitis. He had waited until he was so sick that he had thrown his back out from all of his coughing. His yellowed index finger was a none-too-subtle tip-off to his two packs day smoking habit. I examined him and treated him for his infection. Before leaving, however, I also urged him to throw away his cigarettes for good.

“Oh, yeah, so I won’t get cancer,” he said.

“No, because you’re going to have problems getting a hard erection,” I told him. “If you don’t have problem already. I want you to stop smoking now and make changes at a time in your life when sexual performance is still very relevant. I know that the fear of cancer in your 50s and 60s is not a powerful enough factor — two decades seems too far away. However, I do know that performance and a softening erection are even more realistic fears.”

Got the message? 🙂

Indeed Ben did. According to the story, Ben left the office that afternoon with several sample boxes of nicotine patches.

Again, I understand that quit smoking is a tough process. But hopefully this story may add yet one more reason to your list to ponder, to quit or not to quit. 🙂

 

 

Posted in cancer, Male Impotence, Wellness | Leave a comment

Have you ever heard about this new kind of Encephalitis?

After reading Kiera Echols’ Nightmarish Tumor story and watching her video on youtube this morning, these questions keep popping up in my mind. But first, let’s follow Kiera’s story.

Kiera is 22. In early November, she went to the doctor twice, thinking she had the flu. She was feverish and achy with a bad headache. When her parent took her to the hospital, doctors diagnosed her to have meningitis. After spending six days in the hospital she went home and her parent were not prepared for what happened next.

At the same day she went home, she began hallucinating. She complained to her parents that children in the corner of her bedroom were fighting and being too noisy. Doctors there told her parents that Kiera needed to be admitted to a psychiatric unit. But her parent didn’t believe it. There was no family history of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, which can both cause hallucinations, and she had no signs of mental illness previously.

When they transferred Kiera to the emergency department at Cincinnatti University Hospital, she screamed at her mom to call a priest because she needed an exorcism. She was lunging at people. She was just completely psychotic. Fortunately, within half an hour, doctors told her parents that they suspected Kiera had an unusual form of encephalitis that was causing her hallucinations. While it looked very much like the beginnings of a schizophrenic or bipolar episode, the real culprit wasn’t in her head but a tiny tumor on her left ovary.

I’m glad to watch the video showing Kiera is doing well after going through all these troubles, but these are those unanswered questions that have really bothered me.

  • If a good hospital had to take more than a week to diagnose Kiera, what would happen to other hospitals with lesser status than a teaching hospital as the one that treated Kiera?
  • What about the hospitals in the third world countries?
  • What if a patient with Kiera’s sympton has to be staying in a psychiatric unit? How is this patient going to be treated?

A quick search on the Internet shows that the work of Dalmau J et. al on “Anti-NMDA-receptor encephalitis: case series and analysis of the effects of antibodies” has been widely cited in medical/psychiatric literatures. However, reading the Abstract of Suzuki et.al., from the Department of Psychiatry of my almamater, Hokkaido University, really made me wonder. “Did they describe Kiera Echols’ case in this study?” Please check the Abstract and compare it yourself:

Recently, paraneoplastic encephalitis associated with ovarian teratoma, which predominantly affects young women, has been reported. Its symptoms are severe but often treatment-responsive and reversible. Various psychiatric symptoms occurring shortly after onset are characteristic of this encephalitis. A 22-year-old female who had a fever and common cold-like symptoms presented with short-term memory loss. She was suspected to have viral encephalitis, but the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) showed no marked change. Shortly after that, she developed delusions and hallucinations and presented with psychomotor excitement. She was suspected of having schizophrenia and admitted to the psychiatry department. However, several days after admission, she showed upper limb convulsion, orofacial dyskinesias, and central hypoventilation and became unresponsive. The results of laboratory tests were within the normal range, and there was no marked elevation of anti-viral antibody titers. Brain imaging was normal, but a solid tumor containing soft tissue and calcified components, probably an ovarian teratoma, was discovered on an abdominal CT scan. Anti-N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor antibody was positive in her CSF and blood serum, and we diagnosed her with “Anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis”. Gamma globulin was very effective, and the ovarian teratoma was removed. Finally, she could be discharged from our hospital without any sequela, and returned to her job. Psychiatrists often encounter encephalitis patients with psychiatric symptoms. If the type of encephalitis is unknown, we should keep this disease in mind.

I have added the boldface to the sentences at the end of the Abstract to emphasize authors’ concern, and hopefully this post will help Kiera’s effort to raise awareness of what made her so ill. Chances are, with the widespread of this information, any patient that being affected by this monster tumor would not be misdiagnosed or received a wrong treatment again. The remaining questions, however, are:

  • How widespread is the problem? The UC Hospital only treated 3 cases so far.
  • How difficult is the test needed to diagnose the problem?
  • How sophisticated are the equipment required to perform the test?
  • How much would it cost to determine if the Anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis is the real cause, and
  • Would it be possible to get it done in a small community hospital far away from University Health Center like the one at CU?

If you are a health care professional, or you have some insights into these subjects, definitely, we would like to hear from you.

Note:

Orofacial or tardive dyskinesias are involuntary repetitive movements of the mouth and face. In most cases, they occur in older psychotic patients who are in institutions and in whom long-term treatment with antipsychotic drugs of the phenothiazine and butyrophenone groups is being carried out.

Teratoma: A tumor consisting of different types of tissue, as of skin, hair, and muscle, caused by the development of independent germ cells.

Posted in Anti-NMDA-receptor, encephalitis, Kiera Echols, teratoma | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment