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I’m too young. I dread the prep. I have no family history.
Whatever your reason for avoiding getting screened for colorectal cancer (CRC), it’s not good enough. CRC is one of the most preventable and curable types of cancer. And that’s a big deal when you consider it’s the number two cancer killer in this country.
A cancer we can catch – and cure
Colorectal cancer, found in the large intestine or colon and/or rectum, is more common than you might think. Risk is highest among those age 50 and up, and as you age, your risk climbs. In 2015, 263 people in Maine and 195 people in New Hampshire died of CRC. That year, 1,263 new cases were diagnosed in these two states alone, say statistics kept by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Data shows the needle is slowly moving as medical providers urge more Americans to get screened. From 2014 to 2016, 3.3 million more people were screened for colorectal cancer – a 1.1% increase over prior years. Trouble is, in the 50- to 75-year-old crowd, more than 25% have never been screened, and another 7% are behind schedule. All in all, that means about one-third of adults in the target age group are vulnerable.
How does screening save lives?
Screening stacks the deck in your favor two ways. One, it allows doctors to identify and remove polyps – growths that shouldn’t be there and may become cancerous – before they do any harm. Two, if cancer is found, doctors can treat it right away. That’s important because the sooner cancer is treated, the better the chance for a cure.
“When patients say they’ll wait to have a screening until they have symptoms, I let them know that it’s usually too late to prevent a treatable cancer,” says David Stressler, M.D., a family physician at the Martin’s Point Health Center in Biddeford. “I’m here to answer questions and offer reassurance. My goal is to perform a thorough screening and make their experience with safe and comfortable.”
Testing and timing: Key if you’re age 50 to 75
Health care providers also point out that there are many types of screening, and some are less invasive than you might think. Some tests can even be done at home by taking a stool sample and then sending it to a lab for testing. Others need to be done in a doctor’s office. This includes a flexible sigmoidoscopy, where doctors use a wand to see the inside of the rectum and lower part of the colon. A colonoscopy works the same way, but allows a view of the entire colon. Doctors also sometimes use virtual colonoscopies to capture and review the images they need.
If you’re approaching or over age 50, talk with your doctor about the right screening test for your situation. “I’m here to answer questions and offer reassurance,” adds Dr. Strassler. “My goal is to perform a thorough screening and make your experience safe and comfortable.”
Keep in mind that although these tests are important for everyone between the ages of 50 and 75, some people have an elevated risk and may need testing earlier or more often. This can apply if you have:
- Already had colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer –
Employees Lend Support and Companionship
If you don’t already have a PCP, now is the time to get one. Here are five reasons why:
- Having a PCP takes away worry. It’s no fun searching for a doctor when you’re
The Husky Grads of 2019 Class Gift Campaign will raise funds for the Student Emergency Fund to unlock a $20,000 matching donation from Martin’s Point Health Care.
The USM Foundation’s first student-focused fundraising campaign kicks off March 1 with a challenge to this year’s graduating class: Raise at least $2,019 to support the Student Emergency Fund by May 8 and Martin’s Point Health Care will make a $20,000 matching gift to the fund. The Student Emergency Fund is a new USM initiative designed to help students who face sudden, unanticipated expenses that threaten to derail their ability to stay in school and finish their degrees.
Martin’s Point Health Care, a long-time partner with the University, views access to higher education as a necessary component of a healthy community. According to Steve Amendo, vice president for marketing and community engagement at Martin’s Point, “The Student Emergency Fund is a smart and effective way to help financially vulnerable students persist in their studies. We’re excited to support future USM students and energize student engagement for the class of 2019 with this challenge.”
“We’ve seen students who are so close to finishing
The startling impact on health and well-being
It might surprise you to learn that social isolation can be as damaging as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. In fact, researchers have found links between isolation and all sorts of health problems, including dementia and Alzheimer’s, and chronic conditions like heart disease. Adults who are socially isolated are two-thirds more likely to undergo further physical decline; and nearly twice as likely to die2 than those who stay linked to others.
Experts call the situation an epidemic for American seniors. With more citizens over age 65 than any other state but Florida1, Maine’s situation is especially severe. But there’s good news, too. Because each one of us has the power to make a difference. And the best way to start is with a little background information.
What’s behind the isolation epidemic?
Seniors get cut off for a number of reasons – and there’s often more than one factor at play for each situation.
- Transportation challenges. Many seniors can no longer drive, and/or face limited or no options for getting out and about.
- Poor health. A myriad of issues from hearing loss to arthritis to injury from falling to depression keep many seniors cooped up.
- Major life transitions or losses. Retiring from work, the death of a spouse, and caring for a sick or aging spouse can all remove or severely limit socialization and connections for seniors.
- Lots of rural areas. Eleven of Maine’s 16 counties are considered rural.3 The populations here have higher percentages of seniors, who also face the additional challenges of poverty and poorer health than Mainers living in more populated areas.4
“Senior loneliness is something that we are concerned about year round, but particularly during the cold, dark winter months of New England. Often, the discomfort of the cold and fear of walking or driving on ice and snow limits the mobility of the elderly population. This leads to further isolation, which is already a concern for many. This often leads to feelings of depression and anxiety and can manifest in so many ways, both physically and mentally. This time of isolation also results in limited activity or exercise and can lead to falls and pain from arthritis. Many seniors often have limited funds for food and heat and can have to deal with cold homes with little to eat. We should all take the time to think what we could do for those less fortunate than ourselves.”
– Brad Huot, Martin’s Point Practice Medical Director, Portland Health Care Center
Here’s where you come in
Social isolation is complicated. But small steps can make a big difference in the lives of seniors near you and benefit your community as a whole, too.
In your neighborhood:
Start by simply being aware of your senior neighbors and looking for ways to connect. When you meet on the street, say hello and introduce yourself.
_ Ask a neighbor to go for a walk or have coffee.
_ Offer to deliver groceries, take trash to the curb, or shovel snow.
_Host a simple neighborhood coffee or potluck.
_Keep your radar up for elderly neighbors who may become vulnerable after losing a spouse or partner.
_Check on vulnerable neighbors during bad weather, power outages, and the like. In big neighborhoods, you might join other neighbors and set up a system so no one’s left out.
In your community:
_Volunteer at your local senior center.
_Ask nearby assisted living facilities about opportunities to socialize or share a meal or a game with residents.
_Help seniors learn about cell phones, social media, Skype, and other technology that can help them stay in touch through your local library, school, or community center.
_Ask staff at your church about providing transportation, meals or companionship to seniors in your area.
Do you have a suggestion for helping seniors or do you have a volunteering opportunity you’d like to share? Share your comments below!
Q. Three people in my house take medication regularly. My mother visits a lot, and she takes five medicines. How can we keep them straight?
A. Start by keeping a master list of medications for each person in your household. Each list should include all medications, vitamins and supplements each person takes, along with the following:
• The name of the medicine or supplement
• What the medicine is for
• The name and phone number of the healthcare provider who prescribed the medicine
• How much to take and how often
• A brief description the medication, including color, shape and markings
• Side effects to watch for
• What to do if a dose is missed
• Who to call if there’s a problem.
Keep these lists up-to-date and make sure a family member has copies.
Q. How do I know it’s safe to take my medicine with another medicine?
A. “Medications can be complicated. Understanding how your medicines work with other medicines and your body is important for safety and effectiveness,” says Rebekah Dube, Vice President of Health Plan Clinical Programs at Martin’s Point.
Always ask your healthcare provider and/or pharmacist before you take any new medication, and make sure he or she is aware of other medications you’re currently taking, including prescription and over-the-counter medications, as well as vitamins and supplements. Also, make your healthcare provider or pharmacist is aware of all of your medical conditions.
Q. How can I remember to take my medicine?
A. If you’re taking multiple medicines on different schedules, it can be hard to keep track. Providers offer these tips:
• Use a calendar or planner. Record each dose as an appointment, then check it off as you go.
• Set an alarm to remind you when to take medications.
• Post reminder notes in obvious places – by your coffee maker or on your nightstand, TV, laptop or refrigerator.
• Use a pillbox with multiple compartments for different days of the week.
Q. How should I store medications safely with children in the house?
A. More than 60,000 young children a year need emergency care for poisoning after taking medicine intended for a parent or grandparent. Take these critical steps to protect children:
• Store all medicine up high, out of reach and out of sight of children. Remember kids are climbers – a locked cabinet may be the safest option.
• Return medicines, vitamins and supplements to their safe storage places immediately after taking or administering it – even if it’s a medication you or someone in your home takes multiple times a day.
• Ask for child-resistant caps for medicine containers whenever possible.
• Think of all the other places kids could find medicines – like a backpack, purse or coat pocket, or in the room or pocket of a visiting relative – and store them safely.
• Post the number for Poison Help Line – 800-222-1222 – in an easy-to-find place and add it to the favorites on your cell phone.
Q. My cabinet is full of old medicine bottles and jars. How should I get rid of the ones I don’t need anymore?
A. The best way to dispose of medicines is through a take-back program. You can find out about these events and collection sites through your police station or pharmacy, or by searching the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration website (just enter your ZIP code). If this isn’t an option, some medications can be thrown out with trash after they are mixed with cat litter, dirt or coffee grounds and sealed in a plastic bag. Note that the Food and Drug Administration recommends that medicines on this list be flushed down a toilet instead of thrown out – a practice that also raises concerns about contamination and environmental impact.
Q. Does Martin’s Point have pharmacies? Where are they?
A. Yes! We have two pharmacies open for all – one at our health care center in Portland, Maine, and one at our center in Portsmouth, N.H. Stop by for competitive pricing on the highest-quality, most effective brand-name and generic drugs. We also stock many popular over-the-counter medications.
Call with questions or refill a prescription 24-hours a day:
• Portland pharmacy: 1-888-408-8281
• Portsmouth pharmacy: 1-800-603-0562
Q. Who should I call if I have a question about medication?
A. “Understanding your medications is an important part of staying educated about your healthcare
Tip: Though warm and protected from the elements, indoor walking can get repetitive over time. Keep it fun by bringing a friend, music, or an audiobook. Use a pedometer to count and track your steps – it’s great for motivation. And play around with changing your pace – faster on the straights, slower on the curves – or incorporating intervals, such as alternating 1 minute of faster-paced walking with 2 minutes at a slower pace.
Brunswick Recreation Center Indoor Track
220 Neptune Drive at Brunswick Landing, Brunswick
The two-lane track measures about 1/9 of a mile. Hours vary. Most days the track is open from 8:30 am to 8 pm.
More info: 207-725-6656
Mason-Motz Activity Center
190 Middle Rd., Falmouth
Walk the hallways and gym.
Hours: Monday, Wednesday, Thursday: 8 am to 5 pm; Tuesday, 8 am to 6 pm; Friday, 8 am to noon.
For more info: 207-699-5302
Over the past year, a group of Martin’s Point IT staffers has teamed up with a Southern Maine Community College program called ESOL to IT. The program’s goal is to help immigrants find gainful employment in their chosen field– information technology – here in Maine while feeding qualified candidates to Maine businesses that need IT support.
Jim Vernier, Manager of IT Service Operations at Martin’s Point, had been in conversation with SMCC about the ESOL to IT program just as his department’s team was looking for a new project.
“We had already started a talent pipeline with SMCC to help manage our Help Desk, so we
Martin’s Point physician, Dr. Roy Nakamura, reflects on his experience as a volunteer guardian and chaperone during a recent Honor Flight Maine trip to Washington, DC.
Honor Flight Maine is a non-profit organization created solely to honor America’s Veterans for all their service and sacrifices. Transportation is provided to Washington, D.C. to tour, experience and reflect at their memorials. Top priority is given to our most frail veterans – terminally ill veterans of all conflicts and World War II survivors.