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Colon Cancer Screening

Colon cancer can be prevented!

By: Dr. Susan Moster (Gastroenterology Associate of North Texas)

Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in men and women. In 2010 it is expected to cause over 50,000 deaths in the United State. Over the Last two decades, the number of deaths has been decreasing. This decrease has been attributed to colon cancer screening and awareness. Colon cancer screening involves detecting pre-cancerous polyps, cancerous polyps and colon cancers. With a procedure called colonoscopy, these lesions can be removed. With colonoscopy, polyps are removed before they become cancer, and cancers can be found at an earlier stage when they are more treatable. Also treatments for colon cancer are improving.

Colon cancer screening is recommended for all adults starting at age 50 or earlier with certain risk factors. Conditions that increase your risk will be a family history of colon cancer or colon polyps, inflammatory bowel disease, familial polyposis, lynch syndrome, and a previous history of polyps. Other lifestyle factors increases your risk of colon cancer including smoking, sedentary life style, a diet high in fat and red meat and low in fiber.

How do you get screened for colon cancer?

The preferred method of colon cancer screening in most patients is colonoscopy. This involves a procedure where a flexible thin, lighted scope is passed into the rectum and advanced around the colon while you are sedated. This requires a bowel cleaning prior to the procedure. Bowel preps have improved in the recent year and are more tolerable. During the colonoscopy your colon lining is inspected and if polyps are detected they are usually removed at that time. Larger lesions can be biopsied to determine pathology. There are other screening methods but colonoscopy is the preferred method as it involves direct visualization of the entire colon and can also remove lesions that are detected at the time of the procedure.

As mentioned above, the recommended screening time depends on your risk.

For average risk patients, screening should begin at age 50, and if normal it should be performed every 10 years. For patients with increased risk, such as family history of colon cancer in an immediate family member at an early age, you should begin screening at an earlier age, typically age 40 or 10 years younger than the earliest diagnosis of your family member. Also you have increased risk if you have first degree relatives at any age that have had colon cancer and you should begin screening at a younger age. Screening with this increased risk should be done every 5 years. There are also families with genetically based colon cancer such as Lynch syndrome (HNPCC, hereditary non-polyposis colon cancer) or familial adenomatous polyposis. These conditions required increased aggressive screening and these patients should be managed by physicians with expertise in this area.

For questions about cancer risk or colon cancer screening, please contact Gastroenterology Associate of North Texas at 817--970-7300 or 817-361-6900

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