COLON CANCER PREVENTION
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.
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.
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.
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.
For more information of colorectal cancer, visit the following websites:
www.screen4coloncancer.org (ASGE sponsored site – EXCELLENT)
www.cancer.org (American Cancer Society)