Colon Screening: A Life-Saving Tool to Find a Common and Treatable Type of Cancer

The colon is a vital part of the human body, but talking about colon screening can be uncomfortable. It’s a little awkward discussing bowel movements, and more awkward to provide a sample of one!

But much like middle school gym class, colon screenings are a necessary, albeit intimidating, part of life. The colon reflects how the rest of the body is functioning, and colon screenings in high risk populations can save lives.

Here are five reasons you should schedule a colon cancer screening.

1. Colon cancer is common in the United States. Colorectal cancer is the third most common form of cancer in men and women, and the third leading cause of cancer related deaths. About 150,000 people are expected to be diagnosed with colon cancer in the United States this year. The good news is that early identification of cancer through a colon screening will increase the chances of survival by a lot. Early intervention has a five-year survival rate of 90%. Once the cancer has spread and grown to be more malignant, the five-year survival rate is about 10-20%.

2. Age is not just a number. Colon cancer is most common in older adults; about 90% of new cases are found in people 50 years of age and older. As adults reach ages 45-50, it’s important for them to discuss this with their doctor and schedule an initial colon screening.

3. Relevant Risks. Although most cases are in older adults, the rate is rising in young adults. Since 1994, colon cancer diagnoses have doubled in adults under age 50. This may correlate with the national rise in obesity, as diets low in nutrition and a lack of exercise increases risk of colon cancer. Alcohol consumption and tobacco use also increase the

risk of developing colon cancer. If you have a history of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), Crohn’s disease, or a family history of colon cancer, you should be screened before you reach age 50.

4. Digestive troubles. Symptoms of colon cancer may include blood in your stool, unintended weight loss, consistent stomach pain or changes in your bowel movements. Although these symptoms are not always related to cancer, you should discuss them with your doctor to determine the best course of action.

5. To thank your colon. Colons are hardworking organs. Colons help the digestive system function and help the body maintain homeostasis. They absorb water and minerals from digested food and then create waste from the stuff we don’t need. This 5-6 foot long tube helps to balance the bodies PH, and is always on the clock.

There are several options when it comes to colon screening. The test you get depends on your risk factors and comfort level. If you think you fall under any of the above high risk groups, schedule an appointment with your doctor or our Clinic to discuss your options. Remember that while it may be an awkward subject, colon screening can also be a life-saving one.

Food for Your Mood: How Your Diet Can Affect Depression

Most people are aware of the link between physical health and nutrition, but your diet can affect depression and your mental health as well. Habits like skipping meals and over consuming sweets can worsen depression and brain function. Conversely, eating healthy foods can improve your mood and sharpen your thinking.

For instance, serotonin, the hormone that stabilizes mood and cognition, can be triggered by eating carbohydrates. At least 90% of the body’s serotonin is produced in the digestive system. Therefore, a low carbohydrate diet can affect depression. For better moods and thinking, choose healthy carbohydrates such as fruits, vegetables, or whole grains. These carbohydrates provide an enduring and stable effect on the brain — versus sugary foods or highly processed carbohydrates like many white breads and pastas.

Some fats are good! Omega-3 fatty acids are helpful for brain function and preventing depression as the brain contains large amounts of lipids (fats), made of fatty acids. You can consume omega-3 fatty acids through fish, flax seeds, chia seeds, and walnuts, or through oral supplements. Consuming a diet with sufficient B vitamins may also improve your mood. They are found in salmon, eggs and beef, among others.

Another consideration for people with depression is that you may have a low level of folic acid and zinc. Supplementing both folic acid and zinc may increase the effectiveness of antidepressants. Zinc is in many foods such as shellfish, meat, dairy, eggs, nuts and seeds, and whole grains. Sources of folic acid include broccoli, kidney beans, brussel sprouts, and folate fortified cereals.

More common in women, especially in girls/women of child bearing age, depressive symptoms could be caused by insufficient iron. Increasing iron in the diet can affect depression. Red meat, leafy greens, dried fruits, and iron-fortified cereals are some of the ways you can increase your iron.

Eating a nutritious and diverse diet is key to improving your health. If you struggle with depression, seek out a diet rich in these healthy foods in addition to visiting with your doctor. As always, check with your doctor before taking new supplements. Make an appointment with our office if you would like to learn more about how your diet can affect depression.


Sources: Understanding nutrition, depression and mental illnesses (

What You Can and Can’t Do After Getting the COVID Vaccine

If you’ve received the COVID-19 vaccine, you may be making plans to visit friends and family. But there are some important things to keep in mind.

Remember: the vaccine only protects you. Friends and family members who are not vaccinated are still at risk for COVID-19.

Even after you receive the vaccine, it is important to continue using all the tools available to help stop the spread of the virus.

How to continue to Protect Yourself and Others from COVID-19:

  • Wear a face mask over your nose and mouth
  • Stay at least 6 feet away from others
  • Avoid crowds
  • Avoid poorly ventilated spaces
  • Wash your hands often

Here are answers to come COVID-19 vaccine questions.

When will I be protected after I receive the COVID vaccine?

It takes time for your body to build protection after any vaccination. COVID-19 vaccines that require 2 shots may not protect you until about 2 weeks after your second shot. For COVID-19 vaccines that require 1 shot, it takes about 2 weeks after vaccination for your body to build protection.

I’m vaccinated. Is it safe for me to be around people who haven’t been vaccinated?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released guidelines Monday, March 8 designed to ease restrictions for Americans who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

The agency’s guidance state those who have received a full course of COVID-19 vaccine may get together with other fully vaccinated individuals in small groups inside their homes without masks or physical distancing. They can also visit with unvaccinated people from one other household who are at low risk for severe disease.

The guidelines also say fully vaccinated people don’t need to quarantine or take a COVID-19 test if they’ve been exposed, unless they’re symptomatic. However, they should still monitor for symptoms for 14 days even if they’re not in quarantine.

When can I be around people from a different household?

To put an end to the pandemic, we need to achieve herd immunity. This happens when enough people build up immunity that the virus struggles to spread.

Herd immunity makes it hard for the disease to spread from person to person, and it even protects those who cannot be vaccinated, like newborns or people who are allergic to the vaccine. The percentage of people who need to have protection to achieve herd immunity varies by disease.

Can I get the COVID-19 Vaccine?

The first step to get the Covid-19 vaccine is to preregister so that you can be informed when it is your turn: Local health departments are scheduling large vaccination events and will notify you when you qualify according to the information you submit to them.

As of March 1st, 2020 Virginia is in vaccination phases 1A and 1B. This limits eligibility to get the Covid vaccine to specific categories of people: healthcare workers, long-term care residents, adults age 65+, people age 16-64 with underlying medical conditions, those living in correctional facilities, migrant labor camps, homeless shelters, and frontline essential workers.

To accommodate the limited supply of vaccines, frontline essential workers are prioritized to get the Covid-19 vaccine in a specific order. To check the priority order you may visit the Virginia Department of Health website (COVID-19 Vaccine – Virginia COVID-19 Vaccine). Most frontline essential workers will participate in employee-sponsored vaccination clinics, but pharmacies, local health departments, and health care providers are also working to vaccinate essential workers. You should contact your employer if you are a frontline worker to confirm your vaccine schedule and availability.

If you believe that you have an underlying medical condition that may qualify you to get the COVID-19 vaccine, check the CDCs list of high-risk medical conditions (Certain Medical Conditions and Risk for Severe COVID-19 Illness | CDC).

Those who are 65+ or high risk due to health conditions will get the Covid-19 vaccine through healthcare providers and local health departments. A local link to check is CVS is also offering vaccinations for seniors 65+, also by appointment only. Appointments fill quickly but they are updating their availability regularly. Check this website often as appointments go quickly (COVID Vaccine (COVID-19 Immunization Updates) | CVS Pharmacy).

Shenandoah Community Health Clinic does not currently have vaccines, but once we have them, eligible patients and community members will be offered a vaccination. It’s important to frequently check with your local healthcare systems and health department to secure a vaccination slot at the earliest opportunity. The faster Americans are vaccinated, the faster we can all return to a more normal lifestyle. The process may take time, but eventually, everyone who wants it will be able to get the Covid-19 vaccine.

Eat Healthy On a Budget

If you have a weight problem or a chronic disease like diabetes, you may feel overwhelmed with trying to eat healthy while managing your time and money. Many convenience foods are high in sugar, sodium, or fat. However new shopping habits can pave the way toward a healthier life.

Plan ahead. Make a shopping list. Decide what meals you will make through the week with an eye toward your health needs – low sodium or sugar, low calorie. Check your pantry and refrigerator to maximize what you already have. Eating protein or other healthy food before you shop helps to avoid temptation.

Shop in season. Shopping in season and in combination with store sales will help you eat healthily. Fresh fruits in the summer are delicious but some are expensive in the winter. Also, be willing to swap for similar ingredients that are on sale. If you go in with chicken on your list but the ground turkey is on sale, it may be a worthy switch.

Buy frozen and canned produce.  Frozen and canned produce can be purchased year-round and is a convenient way to eat healthily. When eating canned fruit and vegetables it’s advisable to rinse them first, to avoid added sugar and sodium.

Buy and cook in bulk.  Buy non-perishable and commonly used items in bulk. When possible, cook more than you need immediately to save time and energy. For instance, you can wash and chop vegetables to cover multiple meals. If you’re making a side of brown rice, you can make extra servings for the next few days. This way you have quick options to eat healthy when time is short.

Avoid store marketing. Grocery stores often put higher-priced items in high traffic areas, when there are lower-cost options deeper in the store. When shopping in the aisles, look up and down. Stores often put the higher-priced options at eye level.  Avoid temptation from cleverly placed displays that offer desserts and indulgences, not on your list.

Minimize waste. Ensure that you’re storing perishables to maximize their shelf life. For example, spinach and other fresh greens do best in a dry environment. Putting a paper towel in the container can extend the freshness. Lots of produce can be re-grown using scraps and seeds. Freeze food before it goes bad, to be incorporated into recipes later on. Serve smaller portions to help with calorie control, then enjoy the leftover food at another meal.

With just a little forethought, you can eat healthily and keep your food budget healthy too.



Ross, T. A., & Geil, P. (2010). Healthy eating on a lean budget: diabetes meals for less. Diabetes Spectrum, 23(2), 120+.

Coronavirus – COVID-19 & Services At The Clinic

As always, we are working to protect your health. Here is COVID 19 information you may find helpful.