ColonRectal Cancer – cancer of the colon and rectum – is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States for men and women combined, and over 56,000 people are expected to die from it this year. However, it is a highly preventable and treatable disease if caught early, and an estimated 40,000 lives a year could be saved if men and women would get screened for it.
It has been shown that a low-fat diet, high in vegetables and fruits, coupled with regular exercise can significantly reduce one’s risk for developing ColonRectal cancer. Regular screening of average risk men and women starting at age 50 can help prevent the disease by detecting and removing pre-cancerous polyps, as well as detecting ColonRectal cancer in the earliest, most curable stages.
Despite the widespread availability of highly effective screening tests, ColonRectal cancer screening lags far behind screening for other cancers such as breast (mammography), cervical (pap smears) and prostate (digital exams/PSA). Many men and women are unaware that once they turn 50, they should be screened once a year. Men and women who have a personal or family history of ColonRectal cancer or polyps or a personal history of long term inflammatory bowel disease need to be screened before age 50, as well as women with a personal or family history of ovarian, endometrial or breast cancer.
ColonRectal cancer screening costs are covered by Medicare and many commercial health plans. If you are at risk for ColonRectal cancer, make an appointment today with your physician to discuss which of the available procedures is best for you and how often you should be screened.
ColonRectal cancer screening like paying your taxes is not going to be the high point of anyone’s day.
The four tests your doctor may recommend include:
Fecal Occult Blood Test:
A simple chemical test that can detect hidden blood in the stool. Recommended testing is every year.
A visual examination of the rectum and lower portion of the colon, performed in a doctor’s office. This test may be somewhat uncomfortable, but is not painful. Recommended testing is every 5 years.
A visual examination of the rectum and entire colon performed in an endoscopy unit or the doctor’s office. If polyps are found, they can be removed during this procedure. The exam may be uncomfortable but is not painful when done by a skilled physician. You will receive medication to make you feel very relaxed and sleepy. This is the gold standard of screening for ColonRectal cancer. Recommended testing is every 5-10 years.
Double Contrast Barium Enema or Barium X-Ray:
An X-Ray examination of the rectum and entire colon performed in a radiology unit in a hospital or clinic. Recommended testing is every 5-10 years.
These tests are as simple as they sound. A few moments of discomfort are worth the peace of mind you will have knowing that you have increased markedly the likelihood that you will lead a long and healthy life.
Genetic screening and testing:
Certain families carry genes that predispose to early and agressive development of colon/rectal, breast, uterine (endometrial), ovarian, kidney/urinary tract and brain cancers. We conduct genetic testing for these syndromes in our office.
For more information on ColonRectal cancer and ColonRectal Cancer Awareness Month, visit the ASCRS Web site at www.fascrs.org