Colon Cancer Screening
The old saying that "Timing is everything!" is true in the diagnosis of colon cancer. When found early, colon cancer is 90% curable. There are three keys to fighting colon cancer: education, prevention, and screening.
Polyps are small growths that grow in the lining of the colon. Left unattended, these polyps can become colon cancers. Colon cancer, when found early, is over 90% curable. The risk factors for developing colon cancer include:
- Risk doubles after the age of 50.
- Family history of polyps and colorectal cancers.
- Having inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), ulcerative colitis, or crohn’s disease.
- High fat/low fiber diet.
- Being overweight.
- Heavy alcohol drinking and smoking.
There is no way in ensure 100% colon cancer prevention. But there is some evidence that the following have some merit:
- Staying active: Research has shown that increased physical activity can significantly lower your risk of colon cancer development.
- Taking an Aspirin, daily: There is evidence that aspirin and some selected arthritis medications (NSAIDS) can prevent the development of the polyp itself. As aspirin is inexpensive as compared to NSAIDS. Some newer NSAIDS (Celebrex or Vioxx) may have additional protective benefits. You should be aware that aspirin could irritate the GI tract (ulcers) so if you are developing GI distress please call our office for recommendations.
- Taking 1 mg of folate, daily: Folate may lessen the instability that colon cells have as they mutate to cancerous growths
- Eat a low fat, high fruit, high vegetable diet: Broccoli in particular may have anti-oxidant substance (sulforphane) that may be protective against colon cancer but limiting fat may have the greatest impact.
- Limit ingestion of beer.
- Stop smoking.
- Take calcium daily.
- Take selenium daily.
- If you have been diagnosed with colitis, improved control of your colitis may lower your risk of colon cancer: Associates in Digestive Health believes that each patient should individualize one’s risk for side effects from these potentially beneficial measures. Ask to speak with our staff about these prevention measures.
A screening colonoscopy allows the ADH gastroenterologist to view the lining of the colon with a specially mounted camera. If a polyp is discovered it can be removed at the time of the screening and sent to the lab for pathology.
Most people shy away from scheduling a colonoscopy out of fear of the preparation for the procedure. You should know that there have been significant changes and improvements in the quality of the preps. You should also be aware that the better the prep—the better the screening. Follow all the directions provided to you and make sure you complete the process.
Who should schedule a colonoscopy?
- Anyone 50 and over.
- African Americans 45 and over.
- Anyone with a family history of colorectal cancers should consult with your ADH gastroenterologist to determine the correct age to begin screening.
- Anyone with a personal history of colon cancer should follow your doctor's recommendations for repeat screening.