February 27, 2014
Health Insights Articles
Colorectal cancer, often referred to as colon cancer, is the second deadliest cancer for men and women combined. It is as common in women as it is in men. Approximately 150,000 people will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer and 50,000 people will die of the disease annually. However it doesn't have to be this way. The perception that there is nothing that can be done to avoid colon cancer has changed as people have learned more about early detection and are more aware of the role of family history. When detected early, colorectal cancer can be more easily and successfully treated.
Studies have shown that approximately 60% of colorectal cancers can be prevented by colonoscopy many years before symptoms occur. Colorectal cancer can be prevented by removing benign polyps (growths) during a colonoscopy before they become cancerous. Colonoscopy is the most accurate test for detecting colorectal cancer and is the only test for polypectomy (removal of polyps). Since the National institute of Health (NIH) has been recording data, it is only in the last few years that mortality rates from cancer have decreased. Colonoscopy is thought to have contributed significantly to this reduction.
There are other less invasive tests available for colorectal cancer screening. Stool tests are simple tests performed in the physician’s office or at home and could detect microscopic blood in the stool. Blood in the stool may indicate colorectal cancer and, if a patient tests positive, an evaluation by colonoscopy is necessary. For patients who choose not to have a traditional colonoscopy or are medically unable to have the procedure, another noninvasive test such as virtual colonoscopy is an option and may soon rival traditional colonoscopy. If polyps are detected, the patient would need to be referred for polypectomy by traditional colonoscopy.
Aside from routine screening, colorectal cancer can be prevented by maintaining certain dietary and lifestyle modifications. One should have a balanced diet with fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Reduction of red meats, cured meats and processed foods is also helpful, and maintaining a healthy weight with a regular exercise program is beneficial. Obviously, abstaining from tobacco and excessive alcohol use is a must. Often times what is good for your heart and overall health is good for your colon.
Colorectal cancer is a preventable, treatable, and beatable cancer. March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, so speak to your doctor regarding your colon health and colonoscopy and remind your family members to have the discussion with their physicians as well. To find a physician, click here or call (631) 726-8362.
Steve K. Georgopoulos, MD
Board Certified, Gastroenterology
Meeting House Lane Medical Practice, PC
Dress in Blue and tell a friend to get their colonoscopy.
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