By Michaela Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal
Potty talk isn’t just for parents of toddlers, and colon cancer awareness isn’t limited to people over 50.
It’s important that people be aware of what is normal for their digestive systems.
“It’s something you’re just not supposed to talk about in public,” said Carah Edgeworth, a nurse practitioner with Digestive Health Specialists in Tupelo. “But if we don’t start educating our children” we run the risk they will ignore early symptoms of potentially life-threatening conditions like colon cancer.
While it doesn’t need to be the topic of a dinner time chat, people shouldn’t feel embarrassed to discuss it, Edgeworth said. Changes in bowel habits are the first warning signs that something is wrong.
“If you’re having digestive health issues that are acute or persistent, do not ignore them,” said Tupelo gastroenterologist Dr. Stephen Amann said. “There’s a lot we can do to help them.”
On March 20, HealthWorks!, the Center for Digestive Health and Digestive Health Specialists will help start the conversation. They are teaming up to give kids and their parents “The Scoop on Poop.”
The focus is on children 6 to 12 and their families, Edgeworth said. Admission to HealthWorks! will be free for families if kids and parents come together to the Scoop on Poop program.
“The HealthWorks! programs get the word out to kids about being aware of your digestive health,” Amann said.
Kids will get in on the act with HealthWorks! programs Bozo’s Bowel Movement and The Life of a Carrot.
Then the kids will get to go explore the interactive exhibits on the Funtastic Floor, while their parents have an informative talk about colon cancer with gastroenterologist Drs. Barney Guyton, Sam Pace and Roger Huey.
“It’s going to be pleasant and light-hearted with an important point to get across,” Amann said.
The doctors want to get parents thinking about colon cancer and colonoscopies, even if they aren’t old enough for screening yet.
Colonoscopy offers people a chance to find the colon cancer before it becomes malignant. Polyps – little growths that hang down into the colon that can become colon cancer – can be removed during the procedure. The cancer never gets a chance to grow.
But it can’t catch the cancer if it doesn’t happen.
“Screening tests are only effective if people actually have them,” Amann said.
People have a lot of excuses for not getting a colonoscopy.
Some folks get nervous about the prep for the colonoscopy, Amann said.
Other folks don’t think it will happen to them.
“Before 40, you’re pretty much indestructible in your mind,” Amann said.
But while colon cancer isn’t nearly as common in people under 50, it does happen.
“Our whole goal is to raise awareness,” Amann said.
– “The Scoop on Poop” an educational program about colorectal cancer for children 6 to 12 and their parents or guardians will be at 10:30 a.m. March 20 at HealthWorks! Children’s Health Education Center in Tupelo. Admission is free for those who participate in the program. Preregistration requested by March 18. Call (662) 377-5437.
Here’s the scoop
• Everybody’s poop is not the same, but tell a grown-up if there’s a change.
• Pooping should not hurt, but if it does send out an alert.
• Food can stay in your body. But at some point, it should come out and go into the potty.
• Everybody’s poop is not the same, so be aware and don’t be ashamed.
Red flags for digestive health
You should discuss these symptoms with your doctor:
• Blood in or on your stool.
• Unexplained or frequent pain, aches or cramps/bloating in the abdomen.
• A change in bowel habits, such as having hard stools that are smaller than usual.
• People who have no increased risk for colon cancer and no symptoms should start at 50.
• African-American men and women should start at 45.
• If you have a first degree relative – mother, father, sister, brother – who was diagnosed with colon cancer or colon polyps, talk to your doctor about when screening should start.
• The results of the colonoscopy will determine how frequently you need to be screened again, typically between three and 10 years.