Red Meat Tied to Higher Colon Cancer Risk in Women

By EJ Mundell

HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, April 3, 2018 (HealthDay News) -- Another study, this time in British women, finds that diets high in red meat are linked to higher odds for colon cancer.

Numerous studies have linked a high intake of red meat to colon cancer. In fact, guidelines from the American Institute for Cancer Research and World Cancer Research Fund International, released in September, recommended that people limit their intake of red meat to just over a pound per week to lower colon cancer risk.

In the new study, researchers tracked data on more than 32,000 women in the United Kingdom who were followed for an average of 17 years.

During that time, 335 cases of colon cancer were diagnosed, including 119 cases of distal colon cancer, which occurs in the descending section of the colon, where feces is stored.

Women who regularly ate red meat were more likely to develop distal colon cancer than those who did not eat red meat, according to the research team led by Diego Rada Fernandez de Jauregui, of the Nutrition Epidemiology Group at the University of Leeds.

Two experts in the United States noted that while the study had its flaws, the findings could give guidance to people concerned about cancer risk.

The research couldn't prove cause and effect, but "multiple studies have already highlighted that long-term consumption of red meat or processed meats are associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer, particularly for left-sided or distal tumors, and this study does uphold this," said Dr. Elena Ivanina. She's a gastroenterologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

Ivanina said that even though the study didn't control for certain factors -- the women's use of supplements or cancer-fighting aspirin, for example -- it "does positively reinforce the importance of a meat-free diet in preventing colorectal cancer."

And colon surgeon Dr. Nathaniel Holmes stressed that when it comes to preventing these cancers, "a low-fat, high-fiber diet is recommended."

Beyond that, "smoking, alcohol consumption and obesity are all associated with increased risk of colon and rectal cancer," said Holmes, who practices at Staten Island University Hospital in New York City.

The study was published April 2 in the International Journal of Cancer.

WebMD News from HealthDay

Too Few Baby Boomers Get Hepatitis C Screening

Schedule your Hepatitis C screening today.
— Dr. P

By Robert Preidt

HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, March 29, 2018 (HealthDay News) -- Despite recommendations, only about one in 10 U.S. baby boomers has been screened for hepatitis C virus (HCV), a new study reveals.

Hepatitis C is a contagious virus that causes nearly half of the cases of liver cancer in the United States. Health officials estimate that about one in 30 Americans born between 1945 and 1965 (the baby boom generation) has chronic HCV infection.

But most don't know it.

"Hepatitis C is an interesting virus because people who develop a chronic infection remain asymptomatic for decades and don't know they're infected," said study lead author Monica Kasting.

"Most of the baby boomers who screen positive for HCV infection were infected over 30 years ago, before the virus was identified," added Kasting, a postdoctoral fellow at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Fla.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommend that baby boomers get a blood test to screen for HCV.

But when Kasting and colleagues analyzed federal government data, they found that HCV screening rates among baby boomers ranged from 11.9 percent in 2013 to 12.8 percent in 2015.

The study findings were published in the March 27 issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

Women were less likely to have been screened than men. The researchers also found that among baby boomers and Americans born between 1966 and 1985, HCV screening rates were lower among Hispanics and blacks.

"This is concerning because these groups have higher rates of HCV infection and higher rates of advanced liver disease," Kasting said in a journal news release.

"This may reflect a potential health disparity in access to screening, and therefore treatment, for a highly curable infection," she added.

The most important study finding is that the HCV screening rate isn't increasing in a meaningful way, said Anna Giuliano, who founded Moffitt's Center for Infection Research in Cancer. "Between 2013 and 2015, HCV screening only increased by 0.9 percent in the baby boomer population," she pointed out.

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Study Confirms Lifesaving Value of Colonoscopy

As a reminder, if you’re age 50 or older, it’s important to get screened for colorectal cancer. Call us to scheudle your next Colonoscopy. 
— Dr. P

By Alan Mozes

HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, March 14, 2018 (HealthDay News) -- A large study has confirmed what many public health experts have long believed: Colonoscopy saves lives.

The study looked at roughly 25,000 patients in the Veterans Affairs (VA) health system, where colonoscopy is widely used. The VA views it as the main screening test for patients aged 50 and older who have average odds for developing colon or rectal cancer.

Of that group, close to 20,000 patients were cancer-free between 2002 and 2008. About 5,000 were diagnosed with colorectal cancer during that time and died of the disease by 2010.

Those who died were significantly less likely to have had a colonoscopy, the study found.

A comparison of screening histories over about two decades found that "colonoscopy was associated with a 61 percent reduction in colorectal cancer mortality," said study author Dr. Charles Kahi.

Kahi is gastroenterology section chief with the Roudebush VA Medical Center in Indianapolis.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends everyone between the ages of 50 and 75 get screened for colon cancer. Those at high risk -- including those with a family history of the disease -- should be tested even earlier, the CDC advises.

Screening can take several forms, including stool tests; a lower colon exam called flexible sigmoidoscopy; and even a "virtual" colonoscopy that relies on X-rays to scan the entire colon.

But many public health advocates favor a full colon exam, or colonoscopy. For the test, a patient is typically sedated and a doctor inserts a flexible, lighted tube to examine the entire colon. If found, growths called polyps can be removed during the procedure.

Between 11.5 million and 14 million Americans have a colonoscopy each year, according to the study team.

The new study focused on patients aged 50 and older who were treated at VA facilities between 1997 and 2010.

The investigators found that a colonoscopy reduced the risk of death from right-sided colorectal cancer by 46 percent and left-sided cancer by 72 percent, equaling a combined drop of 61 percent.

Stress, Anxiety and Irritable Bowel Syndrome

From WebMD: 

It's not totally clear how stress, anxiety, and irritable bowel syndrome are related -- or which one comes first -- but studies show they can happen together.

When a doctor talks to people with this digestive disorder, "what you find is that about 60% of IBS patients will meet the criteria for one or more psychiatric disorders," says Edward Blanchard, PhD, professor of psychology at the State University of New York at Albany.

The most common mental ailment people with irritable bowel syndrome have is generalized anxiety disorder, Blanchard says. He thinks more than 60% of IBS patients with a psychiatric illness have that type of anxiety. Another 20% have depression, and the rest have other disorders.

Regardless of whether they have irritable bowel syndrome, people with anxiety tend to worry greatly about issues such as health, money, or careers. Other symptoms include upset stomach, trembling, muscle aches, insomnia, dizziness, and irritability.

There are several theories about the connection between IBS, stress, and anxiety:

  • Although psychological problems like anxiety don’t cause the digestive disorder, people with IBS may be more sensitive to emotional troubles.
  • Stress and anxiety may make the mind more aware of spasms in the colon.
  • IBS may be triggered by the immune system, which is affected by stress.

Ways to Cope With Stress and Anxiety

There's proof that keeping your stress under control can help you prevent or ease IBS symptoms. You could learn about  relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or visualization, where you imagine a peaceful scene. Or you can zap tension by simply doing something fun --  talk to a friend, read, listen to music, or go shopping.

It's also a great idea to exercise, get enough sleep, and eat a good diet for IBS.

Try different stress-busting techniques to see which may help ease your IBS symptoms.

If you’re still tense and anxious, talk with your doctor. Make sure you're getting the right medical treatment for your constipation or diarrhea. Then discuss whether talk therapy might help.

People with irritable bowel syndrome "should really start with their primary care physician, and work with that person," Blanchard says. "They should only go the next step [psychological care] if what they're doing with their doctor is not working."

Help for hemorrhoids

This is great. I’m here if you need me. Read more here.
— Dr. P

Help for hemorrhoids

One of the most embarrassing conditions also can be one of the easiest to treat and manage.


Hemorrhoids are without doubt among the most unpleasant of health topics. But if you have suffered from them, you may find comfort in knowing that you are not alone.

More than 75% of people ages 45 and older have had hemorrhoids, with symptoms like rectal pain, itching, and bleeding after a bowel movement.

Put an end to your hemorrhoid flare-ups, with these tips from the experts at Harvard Medical School

"Hemorrhoids can be painful and embarrassing, but they often shrink on their own with simple self-help and over-the-counter remedies," says Dr. Howard LeWine, assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

A look inside

Hemorrhoids are swollen veins near the anus. There are two types: internal and external. You can have either type by itself, or both at the same time.

Internal hemorrhoids form inside the anal canal and are often painless. However, they may cause intermittent bleeding, usually with bowel movements, and sometimes discharge mucus. Internal hemorrhoids may also protrude outside the anus, where they appear as small, grape-like masses.

External hemorrhoids form just outside the anal opening, where they primarily cause swelling, bothersome protrusions, and discomfort.

Cause and self-care

Sometimes hemorrhoids develop for no apparent reason, but often they are associated with chronic constipation or diarrhea, straining during bowel movements, and prolonged sitting on the toilet. This can interfere with blood flow to and from the rectum (the last six inches of the large intestine) and the anus, causing blood to pool in the veins around the anus, enlarging them.

The good news is that neither kind of hemorrhoid is dangerous, and severe complications are rare. Still, it's important to see your doctor if you experience rectal bleeding, feel a lump in the anus, or have ongoing rectal pain, as these might be signs of an unrelated and more serious condition, such as colorectal or rectal cancer.

Symptoms for either kind of hemorrhoid often can be relieved with self-care treatments. For example:

Sitz baths. A regular sitz bath can relieve itching and irritation. Fill a tub with three to four inches of warm (not hot) water and sit in it with your knees bent for about 10 to 15 minutes. Gently pat yourself dry with a towel.

Fiber supplements. These reduce hemorrhoid bleeding, inflammation, and enlargement by drawing water into your stool to make it easier to pass. A psyllium husk fiber supplement, such as Metamucil or a generic equivalent, is a good choice, although psyllium may cause gas or bloating. In that case, try a supplement containing wheat dextrin (Benefiber) or methylcellulose (Citrucel).

Topical therapies. Over-the-counter products are available for hemorrhoids, such as pads infused with witch hazel (Tucks), as well as soothing creams that contain lidocaine, hydrocortisone, or other ingredients like phenylephrine (Preparation H). These substances help shrink the inflamed tissue and provide relief from itching. External hemorrhoids rarely need more than self-care.

"The exception is a thrombosed hemorrhoid, the sudden formation of a hard, inflamed clot inside the hemorrhoid," says Dr. LeWine. "If this occurs, contact your doctor, since you may need a surgical procedure."

Nonsurgical options

When internal hemorrhoids continue to cause symptoms despite home treatment, your doctor may recommend an office-based nonsurgical procedure. Here are the most common options.

Rubber band ligation. This is the most widely used procedure for treating internal hemorrhoids. The doctor inserts a small elastic band into the anal canal and places it around the base of a hemorrhoid. The band cuts off the hemorrhoid's circulation, which causes the hemorrhoid to wither and die. The rubber band eventually falls off unnoticed. The procedure requires no anesthesia, although a numbing agent is sometimes used if you feel discomfort.

Sclerotherapy. The doctor inserts a proctoscope (a special metal or plastic scope used to view the hemorrhoids) into the anus. He or she then injects a chemical solution directly into the hemorrhoid or the area around it. This solution causes a local reaction that interferes with blood flow inside the hemorrhoid, causing it to shrink. Afterward, some people experience mild bleeding, pain, and pressure.

Coagulation therapy. This uses heat, laser, or electric current to cut off the hemorrhoid's blood supply. Once the hemorrhoid shrinks and dies, scar tissue forms on the anal canal wall to hold nearby veins in place so they don't bulge into the anal canal. One hemorrhoid is treated at a time, with a 10- to 14-day period between treatments.

6 Reasons to See a Gastroenterologist

By Mary Elizabeth Dallas

Many conditions can cause problems during digestion. Chronic pain in the belly is one warning sign that something is wrong. Nagging symptoms, such as bloating, gas and diarrhea are others. They're all reasons to see a gastroenterologist. These doctors are trained to treat conditions that affect the organs of the digestive tract, including the esophagus, stomach, colon, pancreas and liver. If you notice any of the telltale symptoms, it may be time to check in with a gastroenterologist.


Heartburn is pain or burning in the chest or throat. It occurs when acid from the stomach backs up into the esophagus. That's the tube that connects the mouth to the stomach. Many people get heartburn now and then. It goes away on its own or with over-the-counter medicines. But, symptoms that occur more than twice a week could be a sign of a more serious problem: gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

GERD develops when acid from the stomach irritates the lining of the esophagus. GERD is more common among people who smoke or are overweight. Pregnant women also are apt to develop the condition. Medication is available to treat GERD. Severe cases may need surgery. Untreated GERD can cause more serious problems, including chronic inflammation in the esophagus and breathing problems.


Gallstones are small, hard nuggets that form in the gallbladder, a small organ in the belly. A gallstone can be as tiny as a grain of sand or as big as a golf ball. Some people have one large stone. Others develop multiple stones of different sizes. Sudden pain on the right side of your abdomen could be a gallstone. Pain from gallstones passes once they move. Gallstones develop because of imbalances in the substances that form bile. That's the digestive liquid made by the liver. Doctors don't know why these imbalances occur.

Obese people and pregnant women are more likely than others to have gallstones. Having gallstones also becomes more common with age. Anyone who has had one gallstone is at risk for another. Many people who develop gallstones have surgery to remove their gallbladder. In some cases, medications can dissolve the stones.

Lactose Intolerance

People who develop uncomfortable symptoms after drinking milk or eating dairy products may be lactose intolerant. Lactose is a sugar found in milk. The body produces the protein lactase to help break down milk products, including cheese and yogurt.

But, people with lactose intolerance don't make enough lactase to fully digest even small portions of these foods. This can lead to bloating, belly pain, diarrhea, gas, and upset stomach. Symptoms usually appear up to two hours after eating dairy. They can range from mild to severe. Gastroenterologists can test for lactose intolerance. Treatment may involve dietary supplements and changes to your diet.

Celiac Disease

Celiac disease is a genetic condition that involves the immune system. People with the disorder must avoid eating gluten. Gluten is a protein in wheat, rye and barley. It may also be found in certain medicines, vitamins and supplements. When people with celiac disease eat gluten, their immune system responds by damaging their small intestine. This can cause pain and diarrhea. A blood test can help diagnose celiac disease. A gastroenterologist may also need to examine a sample of the small intestine to look for damage.

Celiac disease is not the same as gluten sensitivity. The conditions share common symptoms. The main difference is that people with gluten sensitivity don't develop damage in their small intestine. Completely avoiding gluten can ease symptoms of celiac disease and gluten sensitivity. You may need additional treatment for intestinal damage.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Sometimes, a person's immune system mistakes food and other substances in the digestive tract for dangerous germs. It acts against healthy tissue by mistake. This causes inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). IBD includes several disorders that trigger chronic inflammation in the digestive tract. The small and large intestines become irritated and swollen, causing severe belly paindiarrhea, and rectal bleeding, as well as symptoms that seem unrelated, such as fatiguejoint pain, and fever. Symptoms may ease up and then return during a flare.

The most common IBDs are ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. Ulcerative colitis affects the large intestine. Crohn's disease affects anywhere along the digestive tract. Blood tests, tissue or stool samples, X-rays, and CT scans help doctors diagnose IBD. So does endoscopy. That involves checking the inside of the intestines with a scope that has a specialized camera.

Treatment may include medication, surgery, and lifestyle changes, including taking steps to avoid stress. IBD is not the same as IBS, or irritable bowel syndrome. Some symptoms are similar, but IBS does not cause damage in the digestive tract from inflammation.

Colon Cancer Screening

A gastroenterologist can look for signs of certain diseases, such as colon cancer, even if you don't have symptoms. For a colonoscopy, for instance, the doctor will insert a thin tube with a tiny camera into the rectum to see the inside of the colon. Also, imaging scans and stool samples can help diagnose cancer.

Colon cancer usually develops from abnormal growths on the colon or rectum. Finding these growths early lets doctors remove them before they have a chance to become cancerous. Early detection and diagnosis of cancer saves lives. By the age of 50, all people should start getting regular screenings for colon cancer.

Vitamin D May Help Ease Irritable Bowel Syndrome


Vitamin D May Help Ease Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Researchers say they’ve noticed a vitamin D deficiency in many people with IBS. Increasing the level of the vitamin could reduce symptoms.

It’s the most common disease diagnosed by gastroenterologists and it affects approximately 10 to 15 percent of the adult population in the United States.

But there is no known cause and no cure for those suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Treatment for the condition is focused on alleviating symptoms such as abdominal pain, constipation, bloating, and diarrhea.

Now, researchers from the University of Sheffield in England have found a new way to possibly manage IBS — vitamin D supplements.

The inspiration for the study came simply from speaking with a patient with IBS.

“The vitamin D/IBS link wasn’t spotted by medics or scientists. It came from patients,” Bernard Corfe, PhD, lead author of the study and principal investigator in molecular gastroenterology at the University of Sheffield, told Healthline.

“Vitamin D is an important factor in multiple diseases and areas of health, including musculoskeletal, immune, mental health, and other gut health conditions, including colorectal cancer and IBD (irritable bowel disease),” he added. “The latter two suggested to us that there might be a plausible role for vitamin D in other colon conditions.”

What the study uncovered

Corfe and his team reviewed and integrated all research available on vitamin D and IBS, and also assessed the potential benefits of vitamin D supplements for those with IBS symptoms.

They found a high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in IBS patients around the world.

“This study looked at all research reported throughout the world and found the deficiency was consistent irrespective of latitude or geography,” Corfe said.

It is unclear why those with IBS seem to have vitamin D deficiency. One theory is that diet plays a role. Another is that the impact of IBS on a person’s daily habits may prevent them from getting enough vitamin D.

“It’s unclear which is the chicken and which is the egg,” Dr. Jeffrey Baumgardner, an assistant professor of medicine in gastroenterology at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), told Healthline.

“Certain behaviors in IBS… that you’re not feeling well so you don’t go outside as much, would lead to people having vitamin D deficiency based on the consequences of the disease,” he said.

A disease that affects many

Although only 5 to 7 percent of the estimated 10 to 15 percent of adults living with IBS have been formally diagnosed, it is estimated in the United States there are between 2.4 and 3.5 million physician visits for IBS annually.

About 40 percent of patients who report having IBS are male, while about 60 percent are female.

For those living with the condition, the impact goes far beyond physical discomfort.

“It can lead to people being fearful of leaving the home, unable to go to work, and a significant use of the medical system. The difficult part of IBS is there is no good test to officially diagnose IBS… so often people are stuck being told it’s all in their head and there’s nothing wrong,” Baumgardner said.

Checking patients for vitamin D deficiency is becoming a common practice for gastroenterologists. It only requires a simple blood test.

Dr. Arnold Wald, a professor of gastroenterology at the University of Wisconsin, is one of many who regularly request tests of patients’ vitamin D levels.

“I do check vitamin D deficiency in many of my GI patients and I’m often rewarded by finding it,” he told Healthline. “It’s very inexpensive to order and very inexpensive to treat.”

Vitamin D solution

Wald argues that the link between IBS and vitamin D calls for further exploration and may become a regular test requested by physicians.

“It’s so easy to detect, it’s so easy to treat that you might be remiss in not thinking about vitamin D deficiency in almost any patient you see, particularly those with GI symptoms,” he said.

“It makes a lot of sense from a public health standpoint, as long as we don’t overdo the treatment and call people vitamin D deficient who may simply have marginally low levels. If we do that, we’re just making expensive urine,” Wald added.

Corfe and his colleagues concluded that the large majority of patients with IBS were likely to benefit from vitamin D supplements.

“Even if the vitamin D doesn’t benefit the IBS, there are multiple health reasons to maintain good levels of vitamin D,” he said.

Vitamin D also promotes bone health, immune function, general well-being, mental health, and gut health.

Baumgardner says patients with IBS should be cautiously optimistic about vitamin D supplements.

“If I were someone with IBS, I would want this to be the easy, simple silver bullet because vitamin D is cheap and has a low side-effect protocol. So, it could be useful,” he said.

However, he says, it is important people understand that as everyone’s symptoms of IBS vary, so too will their response to possible treatments.

“There is nothing that is 100 percent effective because everyone’s symptoms are somewhat different, so not everyone is going to respond to the same thing,” he noted.

“It will help people, but it won’t help everybody. If you are someone with IBS, I think you should talk to your doctor about vitamin D, but don’t be discouraged if it won’t work,” Baumgardner said.

Cervical Health Awareness Month

I want to bring to your attention the importance of cervical health.
— Dr. Dale

From Cervical Health Awareness Month

Cervical cancer was once one of the most common causes of cancer death for American women. But over the last 30 years, the cervical cancer death rate has gone down by more than 50%. The main reason for this change is the increased use of screening tests. Screening can find changes in the cervix before cancer develops. It can also find cervical cancer early – when it’s small, has not spread, and is easiest to cure. Another way to help prevent cervical cancer in the future is to have children vaccinated against human papilloma virus (HPV), which causes most cases of cervical cancer. (HPV is linked to a lot of other kinds of cancer, too.)

The American Cancer Society is actively fighting cervical cancer on many fronts. We are helping women get tested for cervical cancer, helping them understand their diagnosis, and helping them get the treatments they need. The American Cancer Society also funds new research to help prevent, find, and treat cervical cancer.