Colon Cancer: One of the deadliest, yet most preventable cancers

by Ramalinga Kedika

March is colon cancer awareness month.  Have you had your screening colonoscopy yet?

Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States. Approximately one out of 25 Americans will develop colon cancer in their lifetime. The median age of diagnosis is 67. However, we are seeing a rise in colon cancer in younger patients. Of the new diagnoses, 10 percent occur in patients under 50 years old.

Although colon cancer is a common and deadly cancer, there are very effective screening techniques. Colonoscopy is a powerful screening technique because you can not only diagnose polyps that are precursors to colon cancer, but also remove them during the procedure. It is this removal of polyps which reduces colon cancer risk. If everyone had a colonoscopy when they should, colon cancer would almost be non-existent!

However, many Americans are not participating in colon cancer screening. Approximately one in three aged 50 to 75 have not been tested for colon cancer. Benjamin Franklin once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” This is true across the medical field, but especially pertinent when it comes to colon cancer screening. It is a lot easier to prevent colon cancer than to treat it once it occurs.

Colonoscopy is often performed using deep sedation which allows the patient to not have any awareness during the procedure. In fact, the most memorable part of a colonoscopy is not the procedure, but rather the prep you have to drink the night before. Laxative preps have reduced in volume over the years and are easier to consume. The procedure is also very safe. The risk of a serious complication such as perforation is one in 1,000. Colonoscopies performed for screening are often covered by insurance plans … so take advantage of this!


Colonoscopy Screening also Serves as Prevention

Colonoscopy Screening also Serves as Prevention
by Ramalinga Kedika

As seen in Odessa American Medical Matters:

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” – Benjamin Franklin.

This is true across the medical field, but especially pertinent when it comes to colon cancer screening. It is a lot easier to prevent colon cancer than to treat it once it occurs.

Colonoscopy is a very powerful screening technique because you can not only diagnose polyps that are precursors to colon cancer, but also remove them during the procedure. It is this removal of polyps which can eliminate colon cancer risk. Approximately 25 to 30 percent of 50 year old patients will have polyps.

The major hesitation people have about colonoscopies is fear of pain during the procedure. Many gastroenterologists are performing this procedure using anesthesia (deep sedation) that allows the patient to not have any awareness during the procedure. Often patients wake up from sedation and are surprised that the procedure is already completed!

Another hesitation I often hear is “Ugh, I have to drink all that stuff.” It’s true that drinking the prep is the hardest part of the procedure, but the laxative preps have improved over the years. A common laxative used in the past was about four liters of a liquid. While this prep is still used, there are newer preps which are half the volume (or even smaller) and easier to consume. The preps are often split-dosed, which means the patient drinks half the prep the night before the procedure and the other half early morning of the procedure. This fact can be reassuring to patients worried about having to drink a lot of liquid in one session.

The procedure is also very safe. The most common complication is bleeding which occurs in up to 0.6 percent of procedures. Most of the time the bleeding will stop on its own. Perforation, which is the creation of a hole or tear in the colon accidentally, is a serious complication but occurs very rarely in about 0.1% of procedures.

Medical testing can be expensive and this can also deter people from having colonoscopies. However, many insurance carriers cover screening colonoscopies because these are considered preventive tests. Colonoscopies may be a part of your insurance plan, so take advantage of this!



MCHS Cancer Recovery & Rehabilitation Program

MCHS Cancer Recovery & Rehabilitation Program

by Denise Minyard, MS,CCC-SLP
MCH Rehab Program Manager for Outpatient Therapy Services

If you or someone you love have been through cancer treatments and now have problems you didn’t have before your diagnosis, there is help available. Especially if these problems interfere with your ability to function or with your quality of life, you are a candidate for the MCH Cancer Recovery & Rehabilitation. Cancer rehabilitation can improve your quality of life – whether you are going through treatment now, finished recently or long ago.

The MCHS Cancer Recovery & Rehabilitation Program was formerly known as “The STAR Program”. It is designed to help cancer patients overcome the side effects of cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation. The program helps cancer patients/survivors in the following ways:

  • Empower and give back a sense of control
  • Reduce anxiety and common fears
  • Provide the knowledge/tools/exercises to help with physical impairments such as neuropathy, pain difficulty swallowing, weakness/fatigue, distress, lymphedema
  • Ability to return to independent living
  • Provide a better quality of life

The services available through the MCHS Cancer Recovery & Rehabilitation Program include:

Physical Therapy

  • Increase energy and endurance
  • Alleviate/manage pain
  • Increase strength/decrease weakness
  • Increase balance/decrease falls
  • Treat lymphedema
  • Treat sensory problems/neuropathy
  • Improve range of motion

Occupational Therapy

  • Improve shoulder range of motion
  • Alleviate/manage shoulder and upper arm pain
  • Improve ability to perform activities of daily living (dressing/bathing/driving, etc.)

Speech Therapy

  • Improve speech and swallowing
  • Improve cognitive skills (memory, problem solving for activities of daily living skills

Nutritional Counseling

  • Improve nutrition for overall health
  • Diet recommendations for changes in taste due to treatments

Mental Health Counseling

  • Reduce anxiety and depression
  • Restore a sense of control
  • Increase coping skills

Smoking Cessation

  • Improve overall health
  • Reduce probability of cancer reoccurrence

We believe that every cancer survivor, whether he/she is currently in treatment, in remission or living with cancer, should be given the chance to heal as much as possible and live life to its highest potential. For more information about the MCH Cancer Recovery & Rehabilitation program, call Denise Minyard, MS,CCC-SLP, at (432) 640-1230.

Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

Prostate Cancer Awareness Month
by Maria Scott, MCHS Community Health Nurse Navigator

September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. Please take a moment to learn a bit more about prostate cancer as well as the risks, screenings and treatments associated with it.

What is prostate cancer?

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the United States, after skin cancer. It is the second leading cause of death from cancer in men. Prostate cancer occurs more often in African-American men than in white men. African-American men with prostate cancer are more likely to die from the disease than white men with prostate cancer.

What is the prostate?

The prostate is a gland found only in males. It makes some of the fluid that is part of semen.

The location of the prostate is below the bladder and in front of the rectum. Because the size of the prostate changes with age, the walnut size found in younger men can be much larger in older men. 

What are the most common prostate problems?

Prostatitis is swelling and inflammation of the prostate gland, often causes painful or difficult urination. Although Prostatitis is more common in men over 50 years of age, it can affect men of all ages.

Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia, or BPH, is when the prostate is enlarged but not cancerous. It is very common in older men.

Prostate Cancer begins when cells in the prostate gland start to grow uncontrollably.

What are the risk factors?

Age – Prostate cancer is rare in men under the age of 40. The chance of a man having prostate cancer rises rapidly for men over the age of 50. About six of every ten prostate cancer cases are found in men older than 65.

Race/Ethnicity – Prostate cancer occurs more often in African-American men and in Caribbean men of African ancestry than in men of other races. African-American men are also more than twice as likely to die of prostate cancer as white men. Prostate cancer occurs less often in Asian-American and Hispanic/Latino men than in non-Hispanic whites.

Family History – The fact that Prostate Cancer seems to run in some families suggests that there may be an inherited or genetic factor in some cases. However, most prostate cancers occur in men without a family history of it.

Having a father or brother with prostate cancer more than doubles a man’s risk of developing this disease. (The risk is higher for men who have a brother with the disease than for those who have a father with it.) The risk is much higher for men with several affected relatives, particularly if their relatives were young when the cancer was found.

Can prostate cancer be prevented?

There is no sure way to prevent prostate cancer due to the fact that many risk factors such as age, race, and family history cannot controlled. Additionally, according with the American Cancer Society the effects of body weight, physical activity and diet on prostate cancer risk are not clear. However, in order to lower your risk of prostate cancer, the following things should be considered that might lower your risk:

  • Eating at least 2½ cups of a wide variety of vegetables and fruits each day.
  • Being physically active
  • Staying at a healthy weight

What tests can detect prostate cancer early?

Screening is testing to find cancer in people before they have symptoms. For some types of cancer, screening can help find cancers at an early stage, when they are likely to be easier to treat.

Prostate cancer can often be found before symptoms arise by testing the amount of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in a man’s blood. Another way to find prostate cancer is the digital rectal exam (DRE), in which the doctor puts a gloved, lubricated finger into the rectum to feel the prostate gland.

At this time, the American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends that men thinking about getting screened for prostate cancer should make informed decisions based on available information, discussion with their doctor, and their own views on the possible benefits, risks and limits of prostate cancer screening.

The MCH 123 on Prostate Cancer

  1. One in seven men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer.
  2. Get a PSA test beginning at age 50.
  3. Early detention is the key!

Sources: America Cancer Society and National Cancer Institute

Smoke Signals

Smoke Signals
Fact Sheet

The dangers of cigarettes and other tobacco products have had health professionals sending up smoke signals for years. Although smoking rates have declined, nearly 18 percent of people 18 and older in the U.S. still currently smoke, and nearly half a million Americans die every year from smoking-related disease. In fact, smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S.

Did you know?

  • Cigarettes contain more than 7,000 chemicals. At least 69 are known to cause cancer.
  • On average, cigarette smokers die 10 years earlier than nonsmokers.
  • Smoking is directly responsible for 90 percent of lung cancer deaths.
  • For every person who dies from smoking, at least 30 (more than 16 million Americans) are living with a smoking-related illness.
  • Secondhand smoke causes ear infections, asthma attacks, and respiratory symptoms and infections in children and raises their risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). In adults, secondhand smoke causes heart disease, lung cancer and stroke. In fact, living with a smoker increases nonsmokers’ chance of developing lung cancer by 20 to 30 percent by ex­posing them to many of the toxic chemicals released from burning tobacco products and exhaled smoke.
  • Smoking raises blood pressure and stresses the heart, increasing your risk for heart disease.
  • Health experts are concerned that electronic cig­arettes are “a gateway to nicotine addiction and, ultimately, smoking, particularly for young people.” Electronic cigarettes pose a risk to unborn babies whose mothers smoke (or vape) and increase nonsmokers’ exposure to nicotine and other toxins, according to a report by the World Health Organization.
  • More people are addicted to the nicotine in cigarettes than to any other drug. Nicotine may be as addictive as heroin, cocaine or alcohol.

Stopping smoking is the single most important step you can take to improve the length and quality of your life. It’s never too late to quit! In fact, you cut your risk for heart disease in half just one year after quitting. Even quitting at age 50 reduces your risk of dying from a smoking-related disease by 50 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Do One Thing: Although many people quit on their own, it generally takes multiple tries. You’re more likely to be successful if you get a little help. So send up your own smoke signal: Declare your inten­tion to quit and tap into one of these proven quit-smoking resources.

  • The Ector County Health Care Coalition offers FREE Tobacco Cessation Classes! They occur at 6pm every Tuesday at the MCHS Center for Health & Wellness, Classroom B. (8050 E. Hwy 191 at Faudree Rd.) Call 432-640-2026 to get started.
  • Call the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) 1-800-QUIT-NOW hotline (800-784-8669) or visit the CDC’s Quit Smoking Resources or I’m Ready to Quit resources page
  • Join the American Lung Association’s Freedom from Smoking program
  • Talk to your doctor about smoking cessation medications and local quit-smoking programs 


© 2016 Spirit Health Group. All rights reserved.

Testicular Cancer Awareness Month

Testicular cancer is a highly treatable and usually curable type of cancer. It typically develops in one or both testicles in young men, but it can occur in older men as well.


Risk Factors 

  • An undescended testicle
  • Family history
  • HIV infection
  • Previous history of testicular cancer
  • Race – Caucasian males have a 4-5 times greater risk than African American and Asian-American males
  • Body size – tall men have a somewhat higher risk factor
  • Age – About half of testicular cancers occur in men between 20 and 24 years old, but it can affect males of any age, including infants and elderly men

Early detection

  • Some may find a lump on the testicle. Others may just have swelling or the testicle may be larger than normal.
  • Some may not have any symptoms until after the cancer has reached an advanced stage.
  • If you notice any changes or a lump in a testicle, go to your doctor immediately.
  • Talk to your doctor to see if monthly self-exams are right for you.
  • For more information on how to perform self-exams, visit the American Cancer Society website.


To learn more about Testicular Cancer or any other type of cancer, visit the American Cancer Society, or call 1-800-227-2345. You can also reach your MCHS oncology navigators at 640-2689 (Stacy Bond) or 640-1578 (Jackie Freeman).

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

Colorectal Cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the United States. But there is good news … It is one of the most preventable types of cancer!

Screening for colon cancer is important because of prevention and early detection. Colon cancer begins with a growth called a polyp that has not yet become cancer. Removing the polyp before it turns into cancer is an excellent preventative measure.

A person can have the disease and not even know. If colon cancer is detected early, there is a better chance of beating it with treatment!

If the disease has progressed, there may be symptoms including:

  • blood in or on your stool
  • stomach pain
  • aches or cramps that do not go away
  • unintentional weight loss

If you are age 50 or older, you need to get tested for colon cancer. According to, if everyone age 50 and older were screened regularly, six out of ten deaths from colorectal cancer could be prevented.

Most people who get colon cancer have no family history of the disease. But if you do, testing is even more important for you.

Tests for Colorectal Cancer include:

  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years – lower part of colon and rectum
  • Colonoscopy every ten years – entire colon
  • Barium enema every five years – if the test shows growths/polyps, a colonoscopy will need to be done to remove the polyps
  • CT colonography every five years – if the test shows growth of polyps, a colonoscopy will need to be done every five years

Tests for cancer include:

  • Fecal occult blood test
  • Fecal immunochemical test
  • Abnormal test results will indicate the need for a colonoscopy

Risk Factors include:

  • Diet high in red meats and processed meats
  • physical inactivity
  • obesity
  • smoking
  • heavy alcohol use
  • age 50 and over
  • family history and inherited syndromes
  • personal history of polyps or inflammatory bowel disease
  • Type 2 diabetes


Lifestyle changes can reduce your chance of getting Colorectal Cancer. But most importantly, please get tested because early detection is so important!

For more information, contact Medical Center Health System Oncology Navigation:

Jackie Freeman, RN CN-BN at (432) 640-1578

Stacy Bond, RN at (432) 640-2689