Ask The Nurse: Edition 2

Q. Do I need to have a test for colon cancer if I have no symptoms?
A. Colon cancer (also called colorectal cancer) is the second most dangerous cancer in the United States. It usually doesn’t cause symptoms until after it has started to spread. Though it is very common, 90% of cases can be cured if found early since most types of bowel cancer are very slow growing. Experts recommend routine colon cancer testing for everyone age 50-75 who has a normal risk for colon cancer. There are three common screening tests. The least invasive is a simple stool test that can be done in the privacy of your own home and is done annually. Another test is a sigmoidoscopy where a doc-tor uses a lighted scope to see the lower portion of intestine. This is usually repeated in five years. Another option is a colonoscopy where a doctor puts a long, flexible tube into your rectum and colon to view entire large intestine. If pre-cancerous polyps are seen they can be removed during this procedure. Everyone age 50 and older should discuss with their health care provider which test would be best. For most people over 75, these screening tests will no longer be necessary.

Q. Is osteoarthritis a part of aging, and is there a way to reduce risks after age 50+?
A. Osteoarthritis is a breakdown of the cartilage
between our joints mostly in the knees, hips, hands, and the neck. It affects over 20 million Americans. Symptoms, including pain and stiffness, usually start after age 40 and become more apparent as we age.
Aging definitely increases osteoarthritis, but heredity and nutrition also play a role. The degree to which you are affected will often be determined by how much you abused your joints in your younger years, particularly if you had a bone or joint injury. Your weight also makes a big difference, particularly for osteoarthritis in your hips and knees. For every extra pound you gain, you add three pounds of pressure to your knees and increase pressure on your hips six-fold. Losing even a little weight, can greatly reduce symptoms and slow the progress of osteoarthritis. Building strong leg muscles can also help reduce osteoarthritis of the knee.

Q. What does it mean that my doctor says I have early stage of a cataract?
A. A cataract is a gradual clouding of the eye’s natural lens. It will eventually limit the light passing through to the retina causing vision to become hazy or blurred with greater sensitivity to light and glare. Cataracts may stay small, not causing any vision problems and you may not notice them. More than 90% of Americans over 65 years have some evidence of cataracts. Risk for cataracts is increased by diabetes, exposure to sun-light, smoking, and alcohol. Not all cataracts develop to the point where removal is necessary. You’ll want to discuss the pros and cons of cataract surgery with your eye doctor when you experience vision loss that seriously limits your activities, like driving and reading. Cataract surgery is a very common and is a short surgery performed as an outpatient. For people who decide to have surgery there is usually a very good out-come.

Q. I am an avid gardener I am always climbing around on a steep area in the back yard. I have a tendency to trip and fall on my knee or land wrong on my foot and my arthritic hands take a beating when I’m planting. Can you tell me whether it’s ice or heat that is the best treatment for pain? And what is the most effective pain medicine to take?
A. That’s a good question. For injuries that may produce swelling, or bruising or bleeding under the skin, immediate application of ice is good. Put an ice pack, bag of peas, or whatever you have in the freezer on the affected area for 20 min. and may be repeated every 1-2 hours for the first 24 hours. This reduces inflammation and bleeding. If soreness persists after 24 hours, you might switch to heat which increases the blood flow to the injury and helps take away the inflammation so your body can heal. For pain or discomfort you might try an over the counter anti-inflammatory medication, (i.e. ibuprofen, naproxen, aspirin). If you’ve not had a conversation with your health care provider about the use of anti-inflammatories then you might check which one would be best for you given your other medications. As for that arthritis flare up, for most people

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