Dr. Michael Nosler, gastroenterologist, discusses screening options and risk factor.
Rulon Stacey, President of UCHealth, undergoes a colonoscopy.
You can lower your risk of cancer
We all know cancer kills. What many of us don't know is that when some cancers are caught early, death can be avoided.
March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. In the United States, colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death and the fourth most common cancer in men and women.
The American Cancer Society estimates that there will be just over 100,000 new cases of colon cancer and 40,000 new cases of rectal cancer in 2013. Both of these cancers are, however, preventable and often curable when detected early.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state, "If everyone who is 50 years old or older were screened regularly, as many as 60% of deaths from this cancer could be avoided."
Most early colorectal cancers produce no symptoms.
Most early colorectal cancers develop from polyps, which are abnormal growths in the colon. If pre-cancerous polyps grow and are not removed, they may become cancerous. This is why screening for colorectal cancer is so important, and why a screening colonoscopy is a powerful way to prevent colon cancer.
There are several available colon cancer screening tests. The preferred test (according to the American College of Gastroenterology (ACG), the American Cancer Society and the US Multi-Society Task Force on Colorectal Cancer) is a colorectal cancer prevention test, such as a colonoscopy.
You can reduce your risk for colorectal cancer by following the ACG screening guidelines published in 2009. For normal risk individuals (those with no identified risk factors other than age), the ACG recommends colonoscopy every 10 years beginning at age 50, and beginning at age 45 for African Americans.
Dr. Michael Nosler, gastroenterologist with Colorado Health Medical Group said, "Imagine if all people over 50 had a regular screening. Imagine the lives that could be saved."
The lifetime risk for developing colorectal cancer is about 1 in 20 (5.1%). It is most common after age 50, but it can occur at younger ages. Rulon Stacey, President of UCHealth, volunteered to videotape his screening a couple of years ago to help alleviate people's fear.
Talk to your doctor about screening before you have symptoms.
Colorectal symptoms may include:
A persistent change in bowel habits, including diarrhea or constipation.
Blood with a bowel movement.
Stomach pain, aches or cramps that do not go away.
Nausea or vomiting.
Unexplained weight loss or new onset unexplained fatigue.
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