It’s Game Day: Getting ready to face colorectal cancer treatment head-on

Cancer survivor and football coach's wife refuses to let cancer change who she is

Tiffany adjusts her son's hat as he lifts his arms to cheer

Tiffany and her son at a U-M football game

Tiffany Hecklinski was used to watching her husband, Jeff, prepare for a big game. Now it was her turn.

In January 2011, Brady Hoke asked Jeff Hecklinski to follow him to Ann Arbor as wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator for Michigan Football. Tiffany, then 37, stayed behind to pack up the family’s home in San Diego. She was having nagging pain in her abdomen, but doctors chalked it up to irritable bowel syndrome and gave her something for the symptoms. Continue reading

Screening for Colorectal Cancer: Time to Stop Avoiding the Colonoscopy

“Your doctor said you need WHAT?” People can feel a bit uneasy when a doctor mentions screening for colon cancer or rectal cancer.

Danielle Turgeon, M.D., is one of the University of Michigan gastroenterologists who perform colonoscopies.

Danielle Turgeon, M.D., is one of the University of Michigan gastroenterologists who perform colonoscopies.

But, according to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in both men and women in the United States. Preventing colorectal cancer, and not just finding it early, is why doctors recommend colorectal screening tests, even though the subject may seem embarrassing to discuss.

Colorectal cancer starts in the colon or rectum, most often as a polyp, or small piece of tissue that projects from the inner wall. Screening tools can find cancer in people before symptoms show up, which is when colorectal cancer is most easily treatable. Some also can find and remove suspicious-looking polyps before they become cancerous, which may prevent colorectal cancer.

Who should be screened:

  • Starting at age 50, men and women of average risk for colorectal cancer
  • People with a personal or family history of colorectal cancer or pre-cancerous polyps
  • People with inflammatory bowel disease
  • People with certain other risk factors, including a known family history of a hereditary colorectal cancer syndrome

The American Cancer Society recommends the following screening tests: Continue reading

Lynch Syndrome: The Genetic Side of Colorectal Cancer

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has designated March 22 Lynch Syndrome Awareness Day.

Her aunt died of colon cancer at age 72.  Her cousin died of colon cancer at age 49.  When her mother was diagnosed with colon cancer at age 70, three years after being treated for uterine cancer, Paula realized it was time to act.  She had her first colonoscopy at age 41.  While the colonoscopy was normal, her doctor recognized that the pattern of cancer in the family was concerning and suggested genetic counseling.  Genetic testing in Paula’s mother found a mutation in a gene called MSH6, confirming that their family has Lynch syndrome.

Lynch syndrome is an inherited condition caused by mutations in any one of 5 genes: MLH1, MSH2, MSH6, PMS2 and EPCAM/TACSTD1.  For people who have a mutation in one of these genes, the risk for certain cancers is increased.  Colorectal cancer is the main feature of Lynch syndrome. Other cancers that can be found in families with Lynch syndrome include:

  • uterine or endometrial
  • ovarian
  • stomach or small intestine
  • biliary tract
  • sebaceous skin tumors
  • urinary tract, such as kidney

Identifying families with Lynch syndrome allows us to intervene with screening and preventive options.  Colonoscopies every year beginning at age 20 can dramatically reduce the risk of colon cancer in people with Lynch syndrome. Continue reading

The Bottom Line: Stool Testing for Colorectal Cancer Screening

Stool, BM, feces, poop or number No. 2. There are lots of different names for something everybody does – but no one likes to talk about.

When it comes to screening for colorectal cancer, there’s no avoiding the conversation. But did you know there are take home kits available to screen your bowel movements for colorectal cancer?  Provided by your doctor and completed in the privacy of our own home, these tests are quick, simple, inexpensive and typically recommended to be done once a year after age 50.

Because it’s an uncomfortable topic, some people are embarrassed to ask the doctor about the test, or are hesitant because they are unsure what the test will be like. Others feel uncomfortable asking how to collect the stool specimen, or are squeamish about the process. Continue reading