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Talk to Your Doctor about Colorectal Cancer

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Colorectal cancer affects men and women equally, regardless of race and ethnicity. It is most often found in people who are 50 years old or older. However, there is an increasing rate of colorectal cancer in those who are under 50, because of physical inactivity and an unhealthy diet. It is important for younger adults to start paying attention to their colorectal health.

According to Dr. Robert Andrew Heyding, a physician at the Charles B. Wang Community Health Center, “Colorectal cancer causes almost one out of every ten cancer deaths in the United States. Fortunately it can be prevented. You can lower your risk by choosing healthy habits and getting regular screening”.

It’s never too early to start living healthy. Here are some good health habits to lower the risk of developing colorectal cancer:

  • Do not smoke – quit smoking and try avoid second hand smoke. Talk to your doctor about smoking cessation resources. Charles B. Wang Community Health Center has bilingual quit smoking resources, you can view those here.
  • Reduce alcoholic drinks – limit to one drink a day or less.
  • Eat a healthy diet – limit high fat or sugary foods, preserved foods, and red meat. Add more fruits and vegetables to your plate.
  • Exercise regularly – walk, jog, swim, or dance. Strive to be active for at least 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week.
  • Keep a healthy weight – talk to your family doctor about what is a healthy weight for you.

Other than having healthy habits, getting screened is very important to prevent cancer. When detected early, there are more treatment options and fewer complications. The most commonly used screening methods include:

  • A Fecal Occult Blood Test (FBOT) checks for blood in stool. Blood in stool may indicate presence of diseases and a colonoscopy may be needed for a diagnosis.
  • A colonoscopy is a thin, flexible tube with a small camera and light on the end is used to examine the colon. It may also have a tool to remove abnormal tissue to be checked under a microscope for signs of disease.

In general, it is recommended that men and women of average risk levels begin screening at age 50. However, some individuals may need to begin screening earlier, such as those who have family or personal history of colorectal cancer or chronic colorectal diseases, and those who are experiencing symptoms of colorectal diseases, such as persistent abdominal pain or changes in bowel habits for at least two weeks.

Discuss with your primary care doctor about when to start screening, which screening method to use, and how often you should get screened. Also speak to your doctor regarding your risk factors or anything unusual in your body. You can make an appointment to see a primary care provider here at Charles B. Wang Community Health Center by calling (212) 379-6998 for Manhattan, and (718) 886-1200 (37th Ave) or (929) 362-3006 (45th Ave) for Queens.


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Man Up – Talk to Your Doctor About Sexual Health

Portrait of Mid Adult Man in Nanluoguxiang, Beijing

Written by Dr. Gail Bauchman

Women are more likely to see a doctor for regular check-ups than men, and yet it is so important that men have regular checkups to discuss all aspects of their health. Sexual health is one area that is incredibly important for men to understand. As a doctor at the Charles B. Wang Community Health Center, here are a few aspects of sexual health that I discuss with male patients.

When you see your health care provider for a routine physical exam or to be screened for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), you will be asked some rather personal questions. These questions are important for your provider to better understand your health risks and provide the best possible treatment.  Some of the questions may involve your sexual practice. For instance, what are you doing to prevent pregnancy? What is your partner using to prevent pregnancy? How many partners have you had in the last year? Do you have sex with men, women or both? What do you do to protect yourself from sexually transmitted diseases and HIV?  Do you know how to use a condom appropriately?

Condom use offers protection against some sexually transmitted infections, including HIV infection. They also offer some protection against pregnancy, but condoms along with the withdrawal method are considered to be the least effective methods to prevent pregnancy.  About 18 women out of 100 will get pregnant within the first year with condom use.

That is why it is important to know what your partner is using to prevent pregnancy. Your health care provider can help answer your questions about contraceptive methods for both you and your partner and help you decide on the most suitable methods. Learn more about birth control and family planning by reading this factsheet.

Question: if the condom breaks and your partner is not using an additional contraceptive method, do you know what to do next to protect her from getting pregnant? The answer is having your partner use emergency contraception.  One of the easiest options is if you or your partner buys a pill that does not require a prescription, called Plan B. The pill should be taken within 5 days of having unprotected sex, but the sooner it is taken the better. Plan B is not 100% effective, but does help reduce the chances of pregnancy.

Your provider may also ask you questions about whether you ever had any STIs. STIs can be transmitted through vaginal, anal, and oral sex and many of them do not cause symptoms, at least in the beginning.  If you do have symptoms such as urinary frequency, discharge from the penis or ulcers on the penis, seek out medical care to get treated. A urine sample is all that is required to test for the most common STIs, such as chlamydia and gonorrhea. Without testing and treatment, you may unknowingly pass these infections on to your partner. Chlamydia and gonorrhea can cause a serious pelvic infection in women that may lead to infertility. Some STIs in pregnant women can also impair fetal development or be passed on to their babies during childbirth. Learn more about STI’s by reading this factsheet.

For the protection of yourself, your partner, and your child, we encourage all men to receive annual physical exams and be screened for STIs whenever they have a new partner.

Come visit us at the Charles B. Wang Community Health Center to get your annual check-up and discuss these as well as other important health issues. Our OBGYN department offers family planning services and counseling to both men and women to help you improve your sexual health and achieve your reproductive life plan, whether you are seeking to have children or preventing pregnancy. You can make an appointment at our OBGYN department by calling (212) 966-0228 for Manhattan or (718) 886-1287 for Queens. Find more information by visiting our OBGYN webpage. You can also make an appointment to meet with a primary care provider by calling (212) 379-6998 for Manhattan, and (718) 362-3006 (37th Ave) or (929) 362-3006 (45th Ave) for Queens. Visit the internal medicine webpage.

Written by Dr. Gail Bauchman. Dr. Bauchman is a physician at the Charles B. Wang Community Health Center. She attended Stony Brook Medical School, and specialized in family medicine. She is board certified from the American Board of Family Medicine.