Colorectal Cancer: Don’t Put Yourself at Risk

July 10, 2020

At AltaMed, we understand that many people are playing it safe and staying home for everything except true emergencies. While we are thankful for your commitment to keeping our communities safe, we don’t want you to put yourself at risk for deadly diseases that could be prevented – such as colorectal cancer.

In June, we mailed out convenient, at-home colorectal cancer testing kits (called a FIT kit) to many of our patients. If you received a test, we encourage you to complete it and return it by mail or drop it off at any AltaMed location. If you need help with the kit or would like to request one, call us at (888) 499-9303.

Take some time to learn about colorectal cancer causes, risks, and prevention. The more you know, the easier it is to take the right steps to protect yourself.

 

What is Colorectal Cancer?

Dictionary

Colorectal cancer is the second-deadliest cancer in the United States. It’s usually thought of as a men’s health issue because, even though both men and women are at equal risk, men are more likely to develop colorectal cancer. Also known simply as colon cancer, it’s a disease that occurs in the colon (the bowel) or rectum (the passageway from the colon to the anus).

Colon cancer starts as abnormal growths called polyps, which may become cancerous over time. If these polyps are detected early enough, there is an excellent chance of survival. However, left undetected, the polyps can quickly become cancerous. And left untreated, colon cancer can quickly spread to other areas of the body. This is why everyone over the age of 50 needs to get screened.

 

What Are the Symptoms?

Inter human body

Colorectal cancer often has no symptoms, so regular screenings can make the difference between life and death.  As the disease advances through the body, common symptoms include:

  • A noticeable change in your bowel habits that last four weeks or more
  • Bloody stools (bowel movements)
  • Stomach pain or cramps that don’t go away
  • Unexplained weight loss

 If any of these symptoms sound familiar, particularly the ones relating to your bowel and bathroom habits, see your doctor ASAP.

 

Risk Factors You Can’t Change

Colorful intestine

Age is the number one risk factor for colon cancer. Statistics show that 90% of colorectal cancer cases occur in those 50 years of age or older.

Other risk factors include:

  • A personal history of inflammatory bowel disease
  • A family history of colorectal cancer
  • Certain genetic/inherited abnormalities such as Lynch syndrome, familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP), and others 

If you have any of these risk factors, your doctor may recommend early or more frequent testing.

 

Risk Factors You Can Control

Calendar

When you make healthy lifestyle changes to cut your risks for colon cancer, you’re also protecting yourself from many other cancers, heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, depression, and more.

  • If you’re overweight, losing just a few pounds can help cut your risks.
  • Heavy drinking raises your risks, so try cutting back on alcohol.
  • Smoking/tobacco use increases your risks for almost all cancers and many other diseases, so take steps to quit.
  • Increase your activity level, particularly cardiovascular exercise. Even taking a few brisk walks every day helps.
  • Ditch the red meat or processed meat products (such as hot dogs and luncheon meat) and opt for lean meats like chicken or fish instead.

Eating a diet that’s rich in fresh fruits and vegetables has been shown to decrease the risk for colon cancer.

 

Over 50? Schedule a Checkup!

Colonoscopy paper

For those who don’t have the genetic, family, or personal health concerns listed above, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends regular screenings beginning at age 50, and screenings following doctor’s recommendations until age 75. Proactive health screenings are some of the best protection against many types of cancer. Adults between the ages of 76- 85 should get screened only when directed by a doctor.

There are several different ways to test for colorectal cancer. Your doctor will recommend the best option for you based on your health history, current risk factors, and personal preferences.

  • Some  tests, like the fecal immunochemical test (FIT), are done once a year, and can even be done in your own home with no special preparation.
  • A colonoscopy is a more invasive screening but is only performed once every 10 years.

In many cases, colorectal cancer screenings are covered at no cost to you by most health coverage plans.

 

We’re Open to Serve You

Doctor holding ribbonIf you’ve been putting off going to the doctor, now is the time to do it. It’s more important than ever to take care of yourself and get your regular health screenings. You may be able to get a FIT kit by mail, but you should still come in. We are taking every possible precaution to keep our patients safe. Call us to learn more and schedule an appointment.

 

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The Services to Help You Grow Healthy and the Protection to Keep You Safe

July 07, 2020

For the past 50 years, our top priority has been helping our patients grow healthy. Our locations remain open and safe to support you and your family’s health needs. While we have telehealth visits available, there’s no substitute for in-person visits. Here’s how we’re keeping you safe:

All of our sites follow the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines:

  • Patients and staff are screened for COVID-19 symptoms before being permitted to enter.
  • Everyone is required to wear a mask.
  • We have placed hand sanitizer stations throughout our facilities.
  • All exam rooms are thoroughly cleaned and disinfected between each patient.
  • All of our providers and staff use personal protective equipment (PPE) that includes a mask, protective eyewear, a plastic face shield, and gloves (when appropriate).

 

Use Our Patient Portal to Get In and Out 

Couple checking computer The MyAltaMed patient portal now has more features that can help you minimize contact while getting you checked in and ready for your appointment faster. Using the patient portal, you can:

  • Schedule, register, and check in to your appointment from your own device
  • Communicate with your health care team
  • View lab results and visit notes
  • Set up and attend a telehealth visit

 

Now Open and Serving You Safely

Altamed ClinicTelehealth visits are convenient, but they are no substitute for in-person care – and you can’t get a vaccination over video-chat! And, if you have a newborn, bringing them for in-person visits is critically important. Whether you need a dental appointment or an appointment for any of our other services, our facilities remain open and safe for you and your family to visit.

If you have any questions or concerns about your health or how to schedule an appointment, please call us at (888) 499-9303.

 

Get the Most Out of Your Telehealth Visits During a Pandemic

May 08, 2020

As a way to keep our members safe and continue to meet their health needs, AltaMed now offers telephone and video visits. You’ll still get the same excellent quality of care and level of attention that you’re used to, all without leaving your house. And obviously, right now it’s the safest option for both you and your doctor.

You can find technical information to prepare for a telehealth visit here. This article focuses on how to prepare to have the most productive visit so your doctor can help you. 


Telehealth Visits: What Are They?

Section 1

Using either a cell phone, landline, a tablet or a laptop, you can talk to an AltaMed doctor over the phone or through video. You can discuss the same kind of things you would at a regular doctor visit, including your symptoms and concerns. You may also be able to get an immediate diagnosis, learn about your treatment options, and even get a prescription if your doctor thinks it’s appropriate.

 

Conditions That Can Be Treated Over the Phone

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 First things first: if you are experiencing a significant loss of blood, breathing problems, fainting or loss of consciousness, a broken bone, or a head or spinal injury, call 911 now! These problems require immediate attention. Check here if you’re not sure if it’s an emergency or not.

Telehealth visits are a good option for many routine health needs – the type of things you’d make an appointment to see your family doctor for, such as:
⦁    Colds, allergies, or flus that aren’t COVID-19 related
⦁    If it hurts to urinate
⦁    Minor scrapes and infections
⦁    A sore throat
⦁    Diarrhea

You can also use telehealth visits to help you manage chronic, or ongoing, conditions, such as:   

⦁    Asthma
⦁    Diabetes
⦁    High blood pressure
⦁    Heart disease
⦁    HIV/AIDS

Eligible patients may be able to have a phone appointment with a dietician or a screening with a dental specialist for dental emergencies.

 

Be Prepared to Talk About Your Health History

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Because your doctor isn’t able to do a hands-on examination, you should be prepared to give them as much information as you can and describe your symptoms. Your appointment may not be with your usual doctor, so you may need to help the doctor understand your health history. Be ready to tell your doctor about: 
⦁    Prior or existing conditions (e.g., asthma, diabetes, depression, breast cancer)
⦁    Previous surgeries
⦁    If you’re taking prescription or over-the-counter medication
⦁    If you are currently under the care of another doctor


Make Sure You Can Give Information About Your Health Concern

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Your doctor can only help you if he understands your concerns. You can help!
Before your visit, write down information about your condition. Think about questions like:
⦁    Where is your pain or discomfort?
⦁    What is the pain like – sharp, stabbing, dull?
⦁    How long have you felt like this?
⦁    Can you trace your problem back to a certain event – for example, if you came in contact with an allergen, started feeling bad after you ate something, or lifted something heavy? 
⦁    Are there times when it’s better or worse?
⦁    Have you taken any over-the-counter treatments? If so, what kind and for how long? Did they make you feel better?


Find a Quiet, Private Place to Take the Phone Call

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A provider will call you within one-hour of the appointment time or may call you sooner than the appointment time. You may only have a limited amount of time, so make the most of it by finding a spot at home where you can talk freely and without distractions.

Even though your doctor can’t examine you the way they would in an AltaMed facility, they will do their best to find out about your condition. Make sure to wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing, in case they ask you to roll up a sleeve, turn to the side so they can watch you breathe, or give you other instructions.

You’ll be able to talk with a doctor who speaks your language, but it’s important that you understand what they’re saying. Our doctors want to help, so feel free to tell them, “I don’t really understand what you mean” or ask them to explain things more than once. 

After the visit, you can get notes and a summary of the visit at your MyAltaMed patient portal, or if you have not registered for access to MyAltaMed, a paper copy will be mailed to you. 

If you need a prescription medicine, we’ll make sure it’s sent over to the pharmacy of your choice.


Need Care? Call Us First!

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No matter what your health care needs, we’re here to make sure they get handled. Call our Patient Service Center at (888) 499-9303 and we’ll direct you to the right services.