Frequently Asked Questions (Click here)

COLON CANCER PREVENTION

  1. Who is at risk for colon cancer?
  2. The risk of colorectal cancer grows as people get older.  According to the National Cancer Institute, more than 90% of those diagnosed are over age 50.  In the low to average risk population, a screening colonoscopy is the recommended standard of care at age 50.  A colonoscopy is recommended at an earlier age for those with increased risk factors such as a family history of colorectal cancer, a history of colon polyps, inflammatory bowel disease (such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn's) and previous history of cancer of the breast, ovaries or uterus.  Statistics show that the Afro-American population has an increased incidence of colorectal cancer and therefore should be screened at an earlier age.

  3. What is the purpose of screening colonoscopy?
  4. The purpose of a screening colonoscopy is to prevent the development of colorectal cancer.  This is done by detecting and removing lesions, called polyps, that develop and grow on the lining of the colon wall and, over time, can become cancerous.  By removing these lesions at an early stage, colon cancer can be prevented.

  5. What is involved in a colonoscopy?
  6. The patient preparation for a colonoscopy entails following a clear liquid diet for 24 hours prior to the examination.  In addition, the evening prior to the exam, the patient drinks a laxative to clean out the contents of the colon.  By carefully following the instructions and being prepped well, the physician is better able to visualize all areas of the colon walls.  The patient is given medication through an IV line by the anesthesia staff and sleeps comfortably throughout the entire procedure.  The physician advances the colonoscope into the colon and a computer chip in the instrument allows him to see the image on a monitor screen.  The image is magnified about 40 times, enabling visualization of even very small polyps.   Specialized instruments that pass through the scope allow for biopsies of any abnormal areas and removal of polyps.  The patient wakes up soon after arriving in recovery and is usually ready to leave 30 -45 minutes after the procedure is completed.

  7. What else can a person do to reduce the risk of colon cancer?
    The latest studies are suggesting that some things an individual can do to help reduce their risk of developing colorectal cancer include:
    • Colon screening at recommended intervals
    • Follow a high fiber, low fat diet
    • Use alcohol in moderation
    • Avoid use of all forms of tobacco
    • Taking Aspirin, Calcium, Folic Acid and Vitamin D supplements
          (check with your physician before starting any supplements)
    • Moderate Exercise Routine

  8. What are the symptoms of colon cancer?
    • Change in bowel habits – constipation or diarrhea that lasts more
          than a couple of weeks
    • A feeling that the bowel does not empty completely
    • Bright red or very dark blood in the stool – black stools may indicate
          hidden blood
    • Stools that look narrower or thinner than usual
    • Abdominal discomfort such as frequent gas pains, bloating, fullness, or cramping
    • Unexplained weight loss
    • Constant tiredness or fatigue
    • Unexplained anemia (low red blood cell count)
  9.  

    IT IS IMPORTANT TO KNOW THAT ANYONE WHO HAS SYMPTOMS SHOULD BE FULLY EVALUATED FOR COLORECTAL CANCER, REGARDLESS OF AGE.  WATCHING AND WAITING IS NOT AN ACCEPTABLE OPTION AND CAN PUT YOU AT FURTHER RISK.  ALSO REMEMBER THAT COLON CANCER CAN BE PRESENT WITHOUT ANY SYMPTOMS UNTIL IT REACHES AN ADVANCED STAGE; SCREENING IS VITAL IN PREVENTING COLON CANCER OR TO FIND A CANCER EARLY WHEN IT IS MOST CURABLE.

     

  10. What are some other facts about colon cancer that people should be aware of?
       

    • Colorectal cancer is one of the most preventable cancers
    • Both men and women are at risk for colorectal cancer
    • Risk increases with age; most cancers occur in people age 50 and older
    • It is estimated that only 50% of people who should have a screening colonoscopy get one
    • Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death for
          men and women in the United States
    • Medicare and most insurance policies pay for screening colonoscopy
    • When detected in the earliest stage, the survival rate for colorectal cancer is 96%
    • More than one-third of colorectal cancer deaths would be avoided
          if people over 50 had regular screening exams
    • Over 150,000 cases of colon cancer are diagnosed in the US yearly

 

For more information of colorectal cancer, visit the following websites:

www.screen4coloncancer.org     (ASGE sponsored site – EXCELLENT)

www.cancer.org     (American Cancer Society)

 

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