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Providing non-judgmental and non-criticizing support for family and friends of end-stage alcoholics through one-on-one coaching, support groups, blog posts, workshops and public speaking.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Colo/rectal cancer facts...

Since Riley was diagnosed with colo/rectal cancer, I have been busy doing research. I find that information is given to us in the doctor’s offices is very slow and methodical. They don’t want to tell us too much too soon. The doctors say it is because they are not yet 100% sure of this or that. They do know it is cancer, but they want another test and then another test. Riley was diagnosed in early July and we are still waiting for some kind of treatment plan.

What we know for sure so far is this: Riley has a tumor in his rectum that is of 99.9% certainty that it is cancer. The tumor – which we have named “Tommy” – has spread to at least one lymph node. Since our last appointment with the cancer doctor, Riley has noticed an increase in the size of the lump in his groin. Tommy is growing.

On Monday Riley is having biopsy surgery of the Tommy occupied lymph node. The surgeons will either remove the lymph node or they will simply take a sample of Tommy. It will then be analyzed in the lab for 100% confirmation that Tommy is malignant. It is the personal opinions of all the various doctors involved that Tommy is a very bad guy.

The treatment plan (assuming that Tommy is malignant) is based on many factors:
  1. Riley’s general health – Riley’s frequent near-fatal detoxes and damage caused by alcohol abuse have left him in poor physical health.
  2. Riley’s general attitude – Riley believes if he gets treatment (whatever it is), he can then go back to drinking. He doesn’t seem to understand (or care) that the two issues are not related. The treatment will not restore him to perfect physical health allowing him to begin the destruction again. The treatment may cure him of cancer but will not repair his brain atrophy or the damage to his heart. In fact, the treatment may make those ailments worse. Chemo and radiation is so invasive and harsh that it could be the cure that kills him.
  3. Riley’s choice of plans – Riley doesn’t want any surgery that will cause him to lose bowel control. He wants chemo and radiation.

While Riley’s issues/wants will be taken into consideration, there is a distinct possibility that NO treatment will be offered to him due to the “cure can kill” being too risky. If the powers that be think the percentage of possibility of death is at a certain point – they will simply let Tommy take his course in overtaking Riley’s body. No treatment at all may mean a better quality of life for a much longer period of time. You can find an excellent description of the treatment options here: http://www.colorectal-cancer.ca/en/anal-cancer/treatment-options/

As is my basic personality – I needed to consult Doctor Google and find facts that could be useful, if not to me, than to my readers in learning about this cancer who seems to like people who are either practicing alcoholics or those who may have been in recovery for any amount of time. The bottom line is cancer likes alcoholics. If a self-imposed death sentence via alcoholic isn’t successful, there is another opportunity waiting in the wings.

In my research I found a chart that shows that colo/rectal cancer is the third most often diagnosed cancer in men. Of the men who have colo/rectal cancer, more than half had abused alcohol over a long period of time. Even moderate alcohol (a lifetime average of 2 to 4 alcoholic drinks per day) use can cause a pre-disposition towards colo/rectal cancer.

Some of the reasons cited for this increase in cancer in alcoholics is explained in a very difficult to read medical journal type document. I’ve tried to re-write it so us normal folks can understand. It’s something like this:
  1. Alcohol produces acetaldehyde  which is a carcinogen (cancer causing substance) for more information on this see http://health.howstuffworks.com/wellness/drugs-alcohol/hangover4.htm; also see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alcohol_and_cancer
  2. Because alcohol can also be used as a solvent (cleaner that dissolves crude), it enhances the ability for other carcinogenic molecules to inter the mucosal cells (tissues)
  3. Alcoholics generally have diets low in essential nutrients which weakens the immune system and makes the tissues of the body more susceptible to carcinogens.  http://www.cancer.org/cancer/news/expertvoices/post/2013/06/26/does-drinking-alcohol-increase-the-risk-of-cancer.aspx

 That’s what I’ve learned so far. There is so much information out there, that it is sometimes difficult to sort through it all and put into layman terms. The bottom line is that if you drink alcohol, you are far more susceptible to cancer than you would be if you did NOT drink alcohol.

1 comment:

Syd said...

Hoping for the best for Riley. Please give him my regards. Take care of yourself, Linda.