Dr. Kevin Most: 2nd round of flu and colon cancer
Yes, this flu season is awful. This year we had a big number of Type A influenza and we saw the impact on national news almost every night. Lots of sick people and many deaths. Over the past month we have seen a nice decline in Type A, this is a bit deceiving as the number of people infected was high and thus fewer people who would be infected as time goes on so we expect it to drop. We have seen the percentage of people testing positive for Type A drop the past 8-9 weeks, however this is a bit deceptive as well. Many docs during this time would not test the patients they felt were influenza patients and they would test only those they were unsure about so the percentage drops. Think of it this way, If I am pretty sure you have influenza and I know there is a lot going around, I may hold off on the test and treat you. If I am unsure, I may do the test, thus I have selected a group so the percentage should go down, Make sense?
Well the problem now is that we are seeing the percentage of patients who are being tested now is rising again, but this time it is with Influenza type B. This increase has been seen for the past 3-4 weeks and we are hoping that it slows or starts to decrease. If it continues to increase we may see another run of flu cases.
The real bad news is that this is a Type B, totally different than the Type A we saw all winter, so the old adage that you won’t get the same infection twice is confusing for people. Anyone who got the flu earlier and had Type A, could again be infected but this time with Type B. Totally different infections but still considered influenza.
It is interesting and confusing at the same time
We can talk about it if you want
March was Colon Cancer Awareness Month. You may wonder why we are discussing this now, and the answer is Eddie Olczyk. Hopefully you all saw last week in the paper or heard Eddie during the Blackhawk game, informing us that he has beaten colon cancer and is now cancer free. As the City of Chicago loves Eddie, this is great news for Eddie, his family and all the loyal Blackhawk fans
What is probably as important is the impact he has made on awareness of this disease. You may recall Eddie was diagnosed last summer, he had surgery and chemotherapy over the past 8 months, and recently had his follow up scans which showed the chemo and surgery have worked and he is cancer free. Eddie has been very open about his fight as well as promoting colon cancer screening. We have heard stories over the past year about individuals who had put off colon cancer screening and had it because of Eddie’s story. I am sure he was also inspirational to those individuals fighting any cancer and receiving chemotherapy.
So Congrats to Eddie and also Thanks for elevating awareness and being the tipping point to help people set up the screening process.
Remember Colon Cancer causes over 50,000 deaths a year in the US and is close to 10% of all cancer deaths. It is not an uncommon disease with close to a 5% overall risk. Currently we have close to 1.5 million individuals fighting this cancer in the US right now. Eddie was one of them but what an impact he has made.
Eddie was diagnosed at the age of 50 and screening is not recommended for under the age of 50 unless you have a family history of colon cancer. The importance of screening cannot be minimized.
So what is new in Colon Cancer Screening? Many of you have probably seen the TV commercials for Cologuard. This is a test that was approved by the FDA in 2014 for Colon Cancer screening. For this test a small amount of stool is tested for specific DNA. It is used as a screening test and if positive it is followed up with a colonoscopy. It looks for blood as well as abnormal DNA which could be signs of Colon cancer. This is a test that a doctor may recommend for individuals who are at normal risk for colon cancer and do not want to have a colonoscopy.
It is a test that is gaining in popularity, the good thing about this test is it is hitting a portion of the population who may have been putting off all colon cancer screening. The cost is around $700 and is covered by many insurance companies. So if you know someone who has been putting of their colonoscopy encourage them to talk to their doctor about Cologuard.
A big point to remember is this is a screening test and if positive a colonoscopy will be needed. Many go straight to the colonoscopy as it is not only diagnostic, meaning it can identify colon cancer, it is often the treatment as many colon cancers can be removed during this test. Colonoscopy is still the gold standard for cancer screening and should be performed after you hit the age of 50 and every 10 years after that for screening. If an cancer or early cancer is noted your dates for colonoscopy may be moved up to every 3-5 years.
Hopefully the awareness that Eddie has raised will encourage more individuals to get screened. This is certainly one of the cancers that the earlier it is identified the better chance one has for long term survival.