Patient Advocacy for Colorectal Cancer and Disease

Today I want to encourage and empower you and your loved ones to be better advocates for your own health care.

Do you remember the old saying: “Knowledge is power”? Well, I say, “Having no knowledge makes you a higher risk for colorectal cancer and other colon disease.”

There are many types of patients who are:

1)    Afraid to get any medical information that may be bad news

2)    Fearful of asking a doctor a stupid question (and for which we all know there is no such thing as a stupid question)

3)    In denial that anything is wrong with them

4)    Afraid of wasting a doctor’s time

5)    Ashamed of telling a doctor about their bowel habits or, for that matter, taking off their clothes

6)    Too busy to even go to a doctor’s appointment

Today’s health care is very different from the past systems you grew up with. It has changed so much over the years, with doctors having to limit their time with you and for your exam, which limits the time you have to ask your important questions.

One of the most important things you can do at a doctor’s appointment is ask your doctor questions. Some patients are really afraid to speak up for themselves, to ask questions or, for that matter, to question their doctor’s authority. It is so important to be your own best advocate in order for you to get the best health care for you.

Remember: good communication between you and your health care provider is essential!

Here are some ideas to help you prepare for when you go for your next appointment:

1)    Write down your questions ahead of time.

2)    Have a friend or a family member go with you to help you remember what the doctor said.

3)    If you are unsatisfied with your doctor, discuss it with him or her or just switch doctors.

4)    Educate yourself and your loved one(s) to report anything to your doctor that is concerning you about your health needs.

5)    Keep a diary of your pain, bleeding, change in bowel habits, and diet.

6)    Know your family history of all types of cancer or genetic diseases. Write it down in a place where all of your family members can find it when they need it for their individual doctors’ records.

Remember: you are never too young to have signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer, anal cancer or colon diseases. Seek medical attention immediately when you think something is wrong.

Know and educate yourself and your loved ones who are at high risk for colorectal cancer and diseases about:

1)    Family history of colon cancer – including first and second degree relatives, meaning children, parents, grandparents, and siblings, especially if they were diagnosed at a young age. Screening for them may start at 40 years of age or 10 years earlier than the youngest person who was diagnosed with colon cancer.

2)    Genetics – FAP (Familial Adenomatous Polyposis) or Lynch Syndrome.

3)    Ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease – inflammatory diseases of the colon and bowel.

Learn some other factors that can contribute to young people’s diagnoses of colon problems or cancer including:

1)    Diets high in red meats, fats and processed foods

2)    Inactivity and obesity

3)    Smoking

4)    Heavy alcohol use

Understand and watch for early warning signs and symptoms such as:

1)    Rectal bleeding (bright red or dark black)

2)    Weight loss

3)    Weakness or fatigue

4)    Nausea/Vomiting

5)    Abdominal pain that is persistent or feeling bloated

6)    Changes in bowel habits (constipation/diarrhea)

7)    Narrowing or change in shape of your stools

8)    Anemia

9)    Your bowels never feel empty

Here are a few ideas that can help prevent colorectal cancer:

1)    Stop smoking

2)    Lose weight

3)    Decrease red meat, fats and processed foods

4)    Decrease alcohol intake

5)    Increase fiber in food

6)    Exercise

7)    Yearly annual visits where total physical exams are done. If your doctor does not check your more private areas, then, for women, go to your gynecologist and, for men, your urologist. For newborns and children, if there are any signs of malnutrition, diarrhea, or constipation, please go to your local pediatrician or family practice doctors as soon as possible.

Being your own health care advocate means you are partnering with your health care provider to hopefully find any diseases and cancer at their beginning stages, so you will be able to beat and survive your cancer. This includes speaking up and exchanging questions and ideas with your doctors in order for you to be proactive in your care.

I cannot express the importance of all of us working as a team in order to bring back the compassion and caring for you as a person, and not just as another patient. Listening to you and your symptoms is the key to today’s achievements of good health and effective treatment.

My sincerest wishes for your own empowerment and ownership of your voice for your own health needs so they may be met effectively in today’s health care systems.

Dr. Christina

  • Posted By: DRC Editor
  • Tags: cancer colon cancer colon cancer prevention Dr. Christina Dr. Christina Goldstein-Charbonneau family history colon cancer Finding Colorectal Cancer Early knowledge is power Patient Advocacy prep for doctor visit questions to ask your doctor risks colon cancer risks colorectal cancer successful doctor's visit symptoms anal cancer symptoms colorectal cancer take control of your health warning signs colorectal cancer
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