News From Grace Cottage

Free Cancer Support Group at Grace Cottage

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Grace Cottage is offering a free support group for community members dealing with cancer. The eight-week group begins Monday, Oct. 17, meeting from 1 to 2:30 p.m. in the Grace Cottage Community Wellness Center (Heins Building), 133 Grafton Road, Townshend.

Hearing the news that you or a loved one has cancer can stir a range of emotional responses. While some people feel shock, disbelief and anger, others may experience sadness, fear and a sense of loss.

Cancer support groups are designed to help people cope with all aspects of a cancer diagnosis by providing a safe environment to share experiences and learn from others who are facing similar obstacles. These groups can have powerful benefits on the success of treatment and recovery. Studies have shown that patients who attend them have a higher quality of life than cancer patients who do not.

The group will be facilitated by Grace Cottage Behavioral Health Specialist Caroline Chase, M.S., Counseling Psychology. Pre-registration is requested by Oct. 3. With questions or to register, please call Chase at 802-365-3715 x6.

Grace Cottage Now Offers Pediatric Occupational Therapy

| News
Jen and Melinda

By Melinda Roy and Jen Studin, Grace Cottage Pediatric OTs
as originally appeared in the Brattleboro Reformer’s Graceful Health series, September 9, 2016

The word “occupational” might lead you to think that Occupational Therapy (OT) is job-related, but really, it’s much more than that. And when it comes to kids, OT is not focused on work at all — unless you consider it work for kids to learn to play, to take care of themselves, and to develop social skills.

OT helps people of all ages to attain and refine the skills they need to participate in daily life: things they need to do to take care of themselves, and things they do for enjoyment. Pediatric OT focuses on skills required to play, bathe and dress, interact with peers, and fulfill student and family responsibilities. Most kids learn these things naturally at school and at home, but for those with special developmental challenges, attaining these skills can be more work than play. That’s when a pediatric occupational therapist can help.

Grace Cottage has just added pediatric occupational therapy to the list of services it offers. Some details of this therapy service might help you determine if pediatric OT might benefit a child you know.

Children who may benefit from pediatric OT typically are those with birth defects, sensory processing challenges, learning difficulties, traumatic brain injuries, orthopedic injuries, fine motor coordination issues, autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, or a range of chronic diseases. Anytime a child has trouble functioning at an age-appropriate and developmentally appropriate level, an occupational therapy evaluation may be beneficial.

Examples of typical difficulties a child might experience are low muscle tone or strength, coordination and balance issues, movement coordination problems, difficulties with grasping and using small objects like pencils or feeding utensils, behavioral or social skill challenges, decreased attention, learning difficulties, and aversion to sensory stimulation. Pediatric OTs teach fine motor control, gross motor coordination, visual perception, self-regulation, body awareness, age appropriate self-care skills, eye-hand coordination, cognition, and sensory modulation.

For example, a school-based occupational therapist might work with a child on handwriting skills or might help a child learn to aim and throw a ball. In a healthcare setting, a pediatric OT might help a child learn to deal with buttons and zippers; forks, knives, and spoons; or a toothbrush.

Pediatric OTs can help children with mental health and behavioral issues that affect the child’s ability to interact well with adults and peers. An OT might provide exercises to increase a child’s focus and attention span, or help the child develop strategies for dealing with noise, so as to avoid sensory overload. Pediatric OTs teach children ways to deal with negative emotions, providing strategies for times when they feel frustrated or angry. No matter how the difficulties manifest, Occupational Therapy can make a difference.

Occupational therapists not only work directly with the child, but also with the family, parents, caregivers and teachers in order to educate and reinforce specific skills and behaviors which will be used to improve and facilitate the child’s performance and functioning.

OTs help the child and the child’s caregiver develop strategies and solutions to overcome obstacles that interfere with successful everyday activities. Some of these strategies may include providing adaptive equipment for dressing, feeding, and bathing; developing a diet to aide in sensory modulation; providing hand splints and exercises to increase finger dexterity and improve fine motor control, and teaching family members behavioral and attention-getting techniques to increase a child’s successful participation with schoolwork, peers, and home life.

A doctor’s referral is required in order for pediatric OT services to be covered by insurance. Check with your particular insurance for details of what would be covered.

Occupational therapists must complete a master’s degree, do fieldwork, and then pass a national certification exam before they are qualified to conduct patient evaluations and to provide services.

Working with children and helping them to overcome obstacles is a challenging but highly rewarding career. Watching children as they learn and grow into independent people is the best reward for a pediatric OT!

 

Melinda Roy M.S. OTR/L obtained her Masters of Science in Occupational Therapy at Springfield College. She has worked in public elementary schools with students in pre-K through grade 8. Jen Studin B.S. OTR/L earned her Bachelors of Science in Occupational Therapy from the University of New England. Her pediatric experience includes school-based intervention with children of various ages and diagnoses and work with preschool autistic children.

New App Connects Patients to Providers

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Bruce Sweeter 003By Bruce Sweeter, Grace Cottage Clinical Analyst
as originally appeared in the Brattleboro Reformer’s Graceful Health series, August 26, 2016

Got a question for your doctor in the middle of the night, and afraid you’ll forget it by morning? No problem. Grace Cottage has an app for that.

This new feature is now part of “Grace Cottage Connections,” the HIPPA-secure patient portal that connects Grace Cottage’s medical providers with their patients.

The app works with Android and ISO-based devices. Once it’s loaded onto your phone or tablet, your health information and the direct messaging system to and from your care team are always available.

You can check on lab records and appointment times or request a prescription renewal at any time of day or night. You can send a message to your provider whenever you think of it, to ask a question, clarify instructions, or give an update on a problem. You can even upload documents or photos. And you can rest assured that you’ll have a reply within one business day. Regular email does not provide the same privacy protection as the patient portal.

The information available through Grace Cottage Connections is all taken directly from a patient’s electronic health record. This information includes visit summaries, appointment dates and times, insurance information, immunization records, allergies, and many test results. The information can be sent to a printer, copied to a flash drive, or pulled up on a mobile device if you are at a medical appointment elsewhere, making the patient record easily portable.

Anyone who sees a medical provider at Grace Cottage can enroll for access to the patient portal. It is offered to Grace Cottage patients free of charge. You need a device that connects to the Internet to get started.

To set up your portal account, call 802-365-3699, or provide your email address at registration when you come for an appointment. You will receive an email with step-by-step instructions and a link to set up a user name and password. Please don’t share this email invitation with anyone else, as this gives access to your private health information.

Once those steps are complete, you can log into your portal. At this point, if you are on a mobile device, you will see a banner on the top of the screen that you can click on to download the Healthelife app. If you already have a portal account, just go to the app store to download it.

In addition to providing easy access to your portal, if you receive messages from your provider, the app will show a red dot to let you know there’s a message.

If you have any questions about the medical information you see in your portal, please call Grace Cottage Family Health at 802-365-4331.

The Grace Cottage Connections portal is not to be used for urgent needs. If you are experiencing a medical emergency and need help, dial 9-1-1 immediately.

For non-urgent questions, the patient portal is an easy and convenient source of information. It’s easy to sign up. Grace Cottage Connections is only for Grace Cottage patients, but several of our providers are accepting new patients.

Bruce Sweeter earned his Licensed Nurse Assistant certificate from the American Red Cross in 2012. He served as a Medical Assistant at Grace Cottage Family Health before joining the informatics staff in 2014. He is currently pursuing a Medical Assistant Associates degree and a Health Information Specialist certificate from the Community College of Vermont.

Is Your Child Developing Normally?

| Featured, Graceful Health
Natalie Harding

By Natalie Harding, Grace Cottage Hospital PA-C
as originally appeared in the Brattleboro Reformer’s Graceful Health series, August 12, 2016

Natalie HardingIt might seem like just another chore on the back-to-school task list, but there are plenty of good reasons why your child’s required yearly physical is a wise investment.

Children with chronic health challenges like asthma, allergies, or diabetes obviously need to be watched closely for any changes in their conditions, but “well” kids need watching too. The yearly physical provides a structure for regular check-ups to ensure that your child is developing normally.

What is normal? That’s a good question, one to be asked at each year’s physical. Answering that question thoroughly is a good reason for having a regular primary care provider. Someone who knows your child’s unique health history is better prepared to ask the right questions so that any abnormalities are noticed as soon as they arise.

The yearly physical is also an opportunity for you as the parent to receive guidance and support. It is wonderfully affirming to have someone assure you that your child is developing normally and that you are doing a good job!

Having a regular pediatrician or primary care provider for your child also means that someone is helping you keep track of immunizations and is making sure that records are submitted to the state-wide database. Immunizations are recorded in this database so that the information is readily available if your child goes to the ER or to another pediatrician.

It’s important to know that, as of July 1, 2016, the exemption from immunizations for philosophic reasons is no longer an option. Only exemptions for medical and religious reasons are allowed, and the proper paperwork must be filed to claim these exemptions. This means a catch-up schedule, or at least a plan, is necessary before school starts this fall for children who were not fully, or ever, immunized. This is a big adjustment for families who have opted out of shots in the past, so don’t hesitate to request information and have discussions with your child’s medical providers and to check with schools and the VT Department of Health regarding what is required. You can find information and forms at the VT Department of Health’s website, using the search term “school entry immunizations.”

Having an ongoing relationship with a medical provider also helps to build trust, so that there is a safe place to discuss private concerns. In this atmosphere, the provider can ask frank questions, especially as the child grows into adolescence. A provider who knows your child well has better intuition and is more likely to notice emerging problems with depression, sleeping, eating disorders, illicit behavior, and social interaction.

School physicals are an important time to check on a child’s physical growth and development. In addition, the provider assesses whether the child is at a healthy weight, and if not, advises the child about nutritional habits that can either increase or decrease weight.

According to the American Heart Association, approximately one in three of America’s children is overweight or obese, and that prevalence has increased steadily over the last forty years. Obesity often causes diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and it can also have a huge impact on self-esteem, so this is cause for major concern.

The National Association for Sport and Physical Education has reported another sobering statistic about our children’s health: only one in three kids are physically active every day.

We adults could do a better job of mentoring healthy exercise habits. This same organization says that adult statistics match that of kids. Less than five percent of us engage in the recommended 30 minutes of physical activity each day, so one of the best things we could do for our children’s health is to take a walk together!

Of course, there are plenty of kids who are involved in sports. They may be getting enough exercise, but they also need check-ups. Sports physicals are required so that a provider can assess the function of heart, lungs, nerve reflexes, range of motion, flexibility, balance, and gait. If the child has a history of concussions or has had recent sprains, fractures, or other injuries, the progress of healing, the risk factors, and the safest approaches to conditioning will be discussed.

Time passes so quickly, and it’s easy to forget how long it’s been since the last check-up. With all of the benefits of regular yearly physicals in mind, the arrival of the school health form can be a welcome reminder, rather than another item on your to-do list.

It won’t be long before the routine of school and sports begins all over again. There’s no time like the present for setting up your appointment!

 

Natalie Harding is a Physician’s Assistant practicing at Grace Cottage Family Health in Townshend, VT. Natalie earned her Master of Physician Assistant Studies from Franklin Pierce College in New Hampshire. She worked in Greenfield, MA, before joining Grace Cottage Hospital in 2014.

What to Expect When Your Doctor Refers You to a Warfarin Clinic

| Graceful Health

By John Kim, PharmD
as originally appeared in the Brattleboro Reformer’s Graceful Health series, July 29, 2016

If you or a family member has been recently diagnosed with irregular heartbeat (atrial fibrillation) or a blood clot, your doctor may prescribe a medication called warfarin and refer you to a warfarin clinic.

What is warfarin, you might ask? It is a medication classified as an oral anticoagulant (often called a blood thinner) used to treat and prevent blood clots.

This is serious business. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimate that one or two people per thousand have blood clots, most often caused by injury, surgery, or heart disease. Atrial fibrillation increases the risk of clots because blood tends to thicken when the heart does not pump in the proper rhythm, thus encouraging clots to form. Many people die every year when a clot breaks loose, travels through the circulatory system, and lodges in the brain or the lungs.

So how does a warfarin clinic help people survive? Read on, to find out!

Warfarin, also known by brand names such as Coumadin or Jantoven, is a medication that works by counteracting vitamin K in the body. Vitamin K is responsible for producing clotting factors, which play an important role in healing cuts and wounds. If you are diagnosed with an active blood clot, or have an increased risk of blood clots, warfarin therapy can help you. By reducing the production of clotting factors, warfarin creates an environment for your body to dissolve current blood clots more easily and to decrease the chances of new clots from forming.

With warfarin therapy, it is very important to make sure there is enough drug in the body to effectively treat and prevent blood clots, while at the same time, making sure drug levels do not drop too low or get too high. Too low, and the medicine is ineffective; too high, and the patient has an increased risk of uncontrolled bleeding. Monitoring the level is the job of a warfarin clinic.

So how does a warfarin clinic monitor this medication? Well, that is done by the INR test.

The International Normalized Ratio, or INR test, is a way to measure how quickly your blood clots. Depending on the clinic and what is available at the facility, it can be done with a blood draw in a lab, or as a finger prick test. Grace Cottage has a lab, so the blood draw method is used. The results of the INR test allow the warfarin clinic staff to determine if your warfarin dose needs any adjustment.

At this point, you might be wondering how often you need the INR test. In the beginning, you will need to get tested more frequently, from every few days to every week or two. This is because the warfarin clinic staff needs time to get to know how you are responding to the medication. Once your INR results stabilize, the testing will likely stretch out to monthly or so, at an interval of time that your warfarin clinic recommends.

When it comes to warfarin therapy, it is important to understand that each individual responds to the medication differently. This means that each warfarin patient most likely is on a different dose. It is the job of the warfarin clinic to help you find a dose that works best for you.

As a warfarin patient, it is also important for you to follow your clinic’s instructions carefully. It may be helpful to have a pill organizer and a pill cutter ready to use after you speak to your clinic about your INR results.

Remember the statement that warfarin counteracts vitamin K? Well, vitamin K is found in many of the foods we eat. A general rule to know is that dark green leafy vegetables, such as spinach and kale, tend to contain higher amounts of vitamin K. However, it is a common misconception to think that warfarin patients need to avoid high vitamin K foods. When it comes to your diet, warfarin clinics preach CONSISTENCY! In practice, it is much easier to control your warfarin doses than your diet.

Along with your diet, it is important to keep in mind the other prescription medications, over-the-counter medications, herbal supplements, and even dietary supplements that you take. If there are any changes to these, or if you plan to try a new product, you need to let your warfarin clinic know. This way, the warfarin clinic staff can search for any potential interactions that may affect your warfarin therapy.

Generally, warfarin is well-tolerated, but just like any other medication, it does have side effects. The main side effect to look out for is increased bruising or bleeding. If you notice any unusual signs of bruising or bleeding, it is important to notify your warfarin clinic and doctor. It may be due to a high INR that would require a dosage adjustment.

Regular INR tests and communication with your warfarin clinic can help you manage warfarin therapy safely. As a pharmacist, I take great pride and pleasure in my warfarin clinic work. Our small size at Grace Cottage allows us to provide individualized attention to each patient and promotes a strong collaboration between patient and healthcare provider, leading to the best possible outcomes. I am happy to provide more information if anyone has further questions.

John Kim, PharmD, joined the Grace Cottage staff in January 2014. He earned his PharmD degree from the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences in Boston.

 

Behavioral Health Specialist Now Full-Time at Grace Cottage

| Featured, News
Caroline Chase

Behavioral Health Specialist Caroline Chase is now working full-time at Grace Cottage Family Health in Townshend, VT, thanks to a grant from the Fannie Holt Ames & Edna Louise Holt Fund.

Chase joined the Grace Cottage staff in October, 2015. A member of the Grace Cottage Community Health Team (CHT), her short-term counseling services are offered to the community free of charge, as are those of the other CHT members, which include two RN Care Coordinators, two Health Coaches, and a Diabetes Educator.

Chase holds a Bachelor’s of Science from Mills College and a Master’s of Science in counseling psychology from Dominican University. She is a licensed Mental Health Counselor. A practicing psychotherapist for the past 34 years, she works with adults, children, couples, and families.

Originally, the CHT’s services were funded through a program established by the Vermont Department of Health, and that funding still supports the CHT in part. A recent grant from the Holt Fund has allowed Grace Cottage to expand those services.

The Fanny Holt Ames & Edna Louise Holt Fund makes grants to not-for-profit organizations that provide health and medical services to individuals living in and around Grafton, VT, where the Holt sisters were long-time residents. They were both long-time advocates of Grace Cottage.

The Grace Cottage CHT works with individuals to assess their health situations, develop plans, and establish attainable goals. This service is especially helpful for managing a chronic condition. A referral from a medical provider is not necessary. Any resident of Southern Vermont can contact the CHT directly for an appointment. No insurance is needed, and there are no co-pays or deductibles.

For more information about the Grace Cottage CHT, visit www.gracecottage.org/our-services or call 802-365-3715.

Plants to Avoid This Summer

| Graceful Health
Parsnips

Danny headshot smallBy Danny Ballentine, Grace Cottage Emergency Department Physician Assistant
as originally appeared in the Brattleboro Reformer’s Graceful Health series, July 15, 2016

If you grew up in this country, you’ve probably somewhat familiar with our three most common poisonous plants: poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac. We don’t have to worry about poison oak in the Northeast, as it generally grows only in the Southeast and along the West Coast. But poison sumac and poison ivy are both native here, so they are definitely plants to look for and to avoid.
It’s good to be reminded of what these plants look like, but keep in mind that there are variations depending on where the plant grows. Eastern poison ivy typically has three shiny green (or red in the fall) leaves on one small stem. Poison sumac is a shrub with multiple leaves on each stem. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website has photos that can help you learn to identify these plants.
Remember that it doesn’t take much exposure to develop a rash. If you brush against the leaves and bruise them, they will exude a noxious oil, and just a tiny bit of this oil can cause a rash. With “an amount that is less than one grain of table salt, 80 to 90 percent of adults will develop a rash,” according to the CDC.
You can be exposed to the oil by touching the plant itself or by touching tools, clothing, or even animals that have the oil on them. And, very important, you can be exposed by burning these plants. Inhaling plants particles in smoke can cause a very severe allergic reaction or even deadly breathing problems. Don’t forget: you may be careful to avoid the smoke, but it can also harm a neighbor who isn’t aware.
Another poisonous plant that is a common nuisance for us is the wild parsnip, sometimes called poison parsnip. These plants grow along roadsides and in other unmaintained locations. The flower is very pretty, looking similar to Queen Anne’s Lace, only yellow. Do not be fooled – this is not a good choice for a wildflower bouquet. The sap from this plant, when it interacts with sunlight, can cause a rash that is similar to second-degree burns. If you need to clear brush or mow where this plant is growing, be sure to wear clothing that fully covers your arms and legs, and wash that clothing as soon as you are finished. If you are using a string mower, be sure to wear eye protection.
It’s a good idea to learn about all of the plants growing in your yard. Of course, many of us like to go hiking or do other outdoor activities elsewhere, but knowing the plants closest to where we live is a good start. You can take photos and compare them to photos in a plant identification book, or you can take them to a garden center for help.
Sometimes the whole plant is poisonous, and sometimes just a part of it. For example, eating the leaves of the rhubarb plant can be deadly. A substance present in the leaves can cause burning in the throat, breathing difficulties, and even kidney failure, depending on how much is eaten. On the other hand, eating the stalks of this plant is perfectly safe, as anyone fond of rhubarb pie already knows.
You can find a good list of the most common poisonous plants in the Northeast by going to the State University of New York Upstate Medical University’s website, www.upstate.edu and typing “poisonous plants” into the search field. This list is especially useful because it tells which part of the plant is poisonous.
Any of us who are parents know all too well that children love to explore the world by putting things into their mouths. Foraging is a wonderful skill to have but it is important to teach your children to avoid all berries, nuts, mushrooms, flowers, and other plant parts, whether they are growing outdoors or in a pot in the house, unless you have positively identified the plant and know it’s safe.
If you or a companion is accidentally exposed to a poisonous plant, it is important to immediately wash the skin, clothing, and any tools exposed with soap and water. If you are exposed to poisonous smoke, get to fresh air immediately and seek medical help. For ingestion of a poisonous plant, get all pieces out of the mouth as soon as possible and seek medical attention right away, either at a hospital emergency room, or by calling the Poison Hotline, 1-800-222-1222. Do not induce vomiting unless told to do so, but it’s okay to take a few sips of water or milk.
Danny Ballentine works in the Grace Cottage Hospital Emergency Department. He earned his B.S. in Wellness and Alternative Medicine from Johnson State College and his Master of Physician Assistant Studies from Franklin Pierce College. He joined Grace Cottage in 2012.

Living Alone Support Group

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Living Alone

Grace Cottage is hosting a Living Alone Support Group, meeting the third Wednesday of every month. Support group meetings will include an informal group discussion on the challenges of living alone. Topics may include cooking and shopping for one, finding people to help with chores around the house or yard, how to meet others with similar interests, and other topics of interest to the group. Whether you have been living alone for years, or are new to living alone, this group welcomes you and your input.

The group meets from 10:15 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. at the Grace Cottage Wellness Center, 133 Grafton Rd. (Route 35), Townshend, VT. The facilitator is Alicia Moyer, the Support and Services at Home (SASH) local coordinator. There is no charge to attend. Call 802-365-3753 to sign up.

July 20: Lyme Disease Prevention Event

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Be Tick Smart

Come to the Grace Cottage Community Wellness Center in Townshend, VT, on Wednesday, July 20, to learn more about preventing Lyme disease and anaplasmosis.

Disease-carrying ticks are tiny but mighty when it comes to wreaking havoc with one’s health. During this presentation Megan Lynde, Public Health Nurse with the VT Department of Health, will share important information about the cause and symptoms of Lyme disease and anaplasmosis and provide guidance on ways to protect against ticks and prevent infection.

This program is offered free of charge. It will be held from 5:30 – 6:30 p.m.in the Grace Cottage Community Wellness Center (Heins Building), located at 133 Grafton Rd., Townshend. No pre-registration is needed to attend.

The Right Formula for Colon Health

| Graceful Health
William Monahan

William Monahan 300pBy Bill Monahan, Grace Cottage Community Health Team RN Outreach Coordinator

as originally appeared in the Brattleboro Reformer’s Graceful Health series, July 1, 2016

When applied properly, any well-proven equation produces good results. The formula for avoiding colon cancer is relatively easy: Colon Health = Preparation + Screening + Prevention.

Colorectal cancer, often referred to as colon cancer, is the third leading cancer killer among men and women in the United States. Colorectal cancer is largely preventable with regular screenings and curable with early detection.

With screenings being the common denominator, you would think that all Baby Boomers would flock to a primary care provider or a gastroenterologist to complete this step, as a rite of passage for a healthy, mature lifestyle. Colon and rectal cancer screening should be a priority for all of us over fifty years of age, and for younger folks with a family history of colon cancer.

Colorectal cancer screening can be accomplished by several different tests, each requiring varying amounts of preparation. Colonoscopies require by far the greatest preparation, and so some patients prefer to start with an easier test. There are several options.

One well-proven, reliable, and fairly easy colorectal cancer screening test that can be performed as a precursor to colonoscopy is the fecal occult (hidden) blood test (FOBT), which tests for blood in the stool, an indicator of problems in the large intestine. The test can be performed at home and requires little preparation beyond a few diet and medication restrictions. The FOBT has been credited with a 30% reduction in colon cancer deaths.

There are two other tests that can be done at home. One of these, the fecal immunochemical test (FIT), has been proven to be more accurate with less false positives than the FOBT. The third home test, the Stool DNA test, is a relatively new, FDA-approved test that looks for cancerous cells and blood in the stool. This particular test has some limitations and is used in the “average” screening patient, someone with no known risk factors.

Any of these three home tests would be ordered by your primary care provider, and test results should lead to a discussion about further testing, which could include a full colonoscopy. None of these tests requires much advance preparation.

The “preparation” component of the equation moves our discussion to other tests that require more extensive preparation than the home tests.

One exam that has a long history in colorectal cancer detection is the Flexible Sigmoidoscopy. An expansive 20-year study published in 2012 has shown that this test can reduce colorectal cancer deaths by to 26%. Sigmoidoscopy may be performed in the doctor’s office, or provided by a gastroenterologist, a doctor who specializes in in the structure, functions, disorders, and diseases of the digestive organs.

Sigmoidoscopy takes about 15 minutes, sometimes more, and sedation is not generally required. Preparation for this test is similar to that for a colonoscopy. The test involves examination of the lower two feet of the colon with a lighted flexible scope by which the doctor can directly visualize the lining of the rectum and the colon. The equipment can take tissue samples for biopsy and can remove polys.

Removing polyps is the “prevention” part of the equation. The two most common types of polyps found in the colon and rectum include hyperplastic/inflammatory polyps and adenomatous polyps (adenomas). Inflammatory polyps do sometimes transform into cancer. Undetected adenomas often transform into colon cancer and are considered precancerous. Early detection is the key to curing colorectal cancers.

While the preceding tests are useful in certain cases, colonoscopy is still the gold standard in colorectal cancer screening because the gastroenterologist can see not just the final two feet, but the entire length of the colon. The instrument used can also remove and biopsy any suspicious areas. The commitment, of course, is the 24-hour preparation and the sedation required during the exam, but these are well worth it for the peace of mind this test provides.

If you are over fifty or have a family history of colon cancer, be on the lookout for some prodding from your primary care provider in the form of a letter or a call. The missing element of the metaphorical colon health equation as it is stated above, of course, is you.

Bill Monahan is one of Grace Cottage’s Community Health Team RN Outreach Coordinators. Bill received his AA in Liberal Studies from Berkshire Community College, his AS in Nursing from Greenfield Community College, and his BA in Health Advocacy from UMass Amherst.