Colon Cancer Awareness Month

Did you know colorectal cancer, often referred to as colon or rectal cancer, is the third most common form of cancer in the United States? According to the Colorectal Cancer Alliance, the disease affects more than 140,000 Americans annually and is the second leading cause of death by cancer, taking an astonishing 50,000 lives a year.

You may be asking yourself, what exactly does the colon do? Well, the colon, also known as the large intestine, is an integral part your body’s digestive system. The essential functions of the colon are to reabsorb fluids, process remaining waste, extract nutrients, and prepare it for elimination. Simply put, your colon helps the body empty waste.

The American Cancer Society warns that one in twenty-four women will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer in their lifetime. The risk is even greater for men whose odds are about one in twenty-two. With these numbers in mind and National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month approaching in March, it’s important to stay educated on the signs, symptoms, risk factors, and preventative measures you should be taking to help fight colorectal cancer.

In most cases, colon cancer begins as polyps — small abnormal growths that live on the inner lining of the colon. Although colon cancer first presents itself in the form of these growths, not all polyps follow the same maturity route. Generally speaking, adenomatous polyps are considered to be pre-cancerous, whereas hyperplastic and inflammatory polyps are more common and benign.

Polyps often display very few symptoms, which is why doctors recommend regular screening tests to detect these abnormalities. In addition to routine screening, the at-home Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) is a valuable resource to monitor the health of your colon in the privacy of your home. The test is non-invasive and requires no prior preparation!

Symptoms

  • Changes in bowel habits, including changes in consistency of stool (diarrhea, constipation), lasting longer than four weeks
  • Rectal bleeding or blood in stool
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Cramping, frequent gas, and associated pain
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Unexplained weight loss

These symptoms are oftentimes mild and undetectable in the onset of colon cancer. Signs and symptoms may also vary depending on the size of the cancer and its location in the large intestine. If you begin to notice any of these symptoms, do not hesitate to contact your physician.

Risk Factors

  • Age – colon cancer typically affects those 50 and older
  • Inflammatory intestinal conditions such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • High-fat, low-fiber diets
  • Smoking and alcohol use
  • Radiation therapy directed at the abdomen to treat previous cancers

In addition, a family history of colon cancer and inherited risk factors such as Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (FAP) and Hereditary Non-Polyposis Colorectal Cancer (HPNCC) or Lynch Syndrome can increase your risk.

Prevention

When it comes to protecting your body against colon cancer, many factors are within your control! Scheduling routine screening with your doctor is by far the most important and effective action to take with colon health in mind. Although it is generally recommended people begin colon cancer screenings at age 50, those with certain risk factors or family history of the disease are encouraged to speak with their doctor about earlier and more frequent screenings.

Colorectal cancer screening can detect precancerous polyps before they develop and become a real danger to your health. When colorectal cancer is found in the early stages with screening, treatment is typically more effective.

Certain lifestyle changes are also shown to reduce your risk for colon cancer:

  • Eating a balanced and colorful diet full of fruits, vegetables and whole grains
  • Increasing physical activity with 30 minutes of exercise a day
  • Limiting alcohol consumption
  • Avoid tobacco products

With March just around the corner and National Colorectal Cancer Awareness on the forefront, Any Lab Test Now encourages you to watch for signs and symptoms, speak with your doctor, and take preventative measures to make your colon health an ongoing priority.

Visit Any Lab Test Now to find a location near you and speak with a professional about colon cancer-related tests, such as an at-home Fecal Immunochemical Test!

Posted in ANY LAB TEST NOW | Tagged | Leave a comment

Can a simple test lead to better rest?

When you consider what it takes to get a good night’s sleep, a lot of things probably come to mind. The bed usually comes to mind first. Is it comfortable? Is it familiar? Do you have the right pillows? Next, it’s probably your surroundings. Is it dark enough? Is it quiet? Your local Any Lab Test Now can’t do much about the state of your mattress and pillows, but we can try to help you get a better night’s sleep.

For some people, having just one thing slightly off can make all the difference when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep. So many things can affect our slumber that many of us don’t really consider one of the most important factors: our hormones. They play a huge role in not only our ability to get sufficient sleep, but also in the quality of our rest. And while many different hormones play a part, there are two that are center stage in the sleep arena: melatonin and cortisol.

Melatonin: The Rhythm of the Night

Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pituitary gland and it is vital to your body’s ability to regulate your sleep/wake cycle. Scientists say that the level of melatonin in your body should begin to rise as the sun goes down, preparing your body for sleep. The level should peak in the early morning hours just before dawn, then begin dropping after you wake. In a study published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), high levels of melatonin at 8 a.m. were more than a wake-up call. They were associated with:

  • Better quality sleep
  • Lower depression scores
  • Better attention spans
  • Better visual memory
  • Better at arithmetic

If these levels are off, or if the rhythms are disrupted, you could find yourself wide awake in the middle of the night.

Cortisol; Co-Star of the Sleep Show

Cortisol is often called the “stress” hormone because levels in the blood rise during times of extreme stress. It’s responsible for your body’s “fight or flight” response, but it’s also critical for everyday bodily functions. Cortisol should take over where melatonin leaves off. Scientists say cortisol levels should rise 30 minutes to one hour after you wake up. It’s what gets you going in the morning. They will gradually drop to their lowest levels in the evening so you can calm down and go to sleep. But the problem comes in to play when excess stress keeps your cortisol levels high. This keeps you awake, which usually leads you to turn on lights, which lowers your melatonin levels, creating a vicious cycle.

Are Your Hormones Working Together?

If these two hormones aren’t playing nice on a regular basis, you could be in for bigger trouble than just a few sleepless nights. Disturbed sleep has been associated with:

  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Obesity

Testing for a Better Night’s Sleep

So how can Any Lab Test Now help you find your way to a better night’s sleep? It’s easier than you might think! It’s a simple test, that you take at home, that will provide you and your doctor with information about your levels of cortisol and melatonin throughout the day and night. The Sleep Balance Take Home Hormone Kit is a simple urine test requiring urine collection on test strips at four different times.

First, urine is collected when you wake up, so your nighttime melatonin levels can be checked. About two hours later, a second collection will measure your cortisol awakening response. The third collection is in the evening when both your melatonin and cortisol levels should be low. Finally, the last test is performed just before bed, where your melatonin level should be rising for sleep and your cortisol should be at its lowest level of the day.

Your First Day to a Better Night’s Sleep

The Sleep Balance Take Home Hormone Kit can help you and your doctor get to the bottom of your sleep problems. Find out more at your local Any Lab Test Now.

Posted in ANY LAB TEST NOW | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Gluten-free: a diet for some, deadly for others

You’ve probably seen it in the grocery store or on a page of the restaurant menu: “Gluten Free” in bold letters. It’s a claim that for some people means a choice to help them lose weight or to live a healthier lifestyle. But for others it is truly not a choice and it can make all the difference to their long-term health. Is going gluten free a “choice” or a “must” for you? Your local Any Lab Test Now can help you decide.

Not a Fad but a Fact

For some people, the ingestion of gluten leads to a cascade of health problems that end with serious damage to the small intestine. These are the people who have celiac disease, a very serious autoimmune disorder. According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, 2.5 million Americans are living with the disease undiagnosed…and are at serious risk for long-term health complications. Complications like malnutrition, osteoporosis, infertility, even certain types of cancer can occur if the disease is left untreated.

Little Protein; Big Problem

So, what happens when you have celiac disease? The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has some helpful information. Basically, when a person with celiac disease ingests gluten, their body can’t digest it and it hangs around in their system triggering an autoimmune response. That’s when the body goes on the attack! Over time, that leads to the damage of the small intestine and other potential health problems. The only way to stop the damage at this point is to avoid ingesting gluten, which is easier said than done. Gluten is found in wheat, barley and rye, so it shows up most often in bread, pasta, and baked treats. But this little protein is tricky! It can show up in lip balms, toothpastes, and even envelope adhesive.

Signs and Symptoms

Celiac disease is serious and you might wonder just how 2.5 million Americans can continue to live with this disease, undiagnosed? That’s because the symptoms can be so different for each person. We could fill a page with some of the different symptoms to look for in adults and children, but here are a few:

  • Anemia
  • Bone or joint pain
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Headaches
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Numbness in hands and feet
  • Tiredness
  • Abdominal pain and bloating

You can take your health into your own hands if you suspect you have celiac disease. Any Lab Test Now offers tests to help you get answers:

CICA – Celiac, IBS, and Crohn’s ArrayWant to check for a wider range? Consider the CICA test, which measures gut health on the genetic, antibody, and cellular levels. This is a much deeper investigation that can point you and your doctor in the right direction.

Celiac Disease vs. Gluten Sensitivity

Be aware that celiac disease is different from gluten sensitivity. If you have gluten sensitivity, you may have symptoms similar to those of celiac disease, but gluten sensitivity does not damage the small intestine. Any Lab Test Now offers the ALCAT 50 Food Panel to test for food sensitivity and intolerance. Check here to find an Any Lab Test Now location near you.

Posted in Celiac Disease, Health | Tagged , , | Leave a comment