Colon Cancer Prevention
Gastroenterology Associates are experts in screening for colorectal cancer. Their up-to-date knowledge and skills, along with access to the latest technology serve their patients well. It is important to ask your primary care physician about routine colon cancer screenings or if you prefer, contact our office for assistance in determining if you are at risk.
Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in the world. There are few factors that increase the risk of colon cancer:
- Family history of colon cancer: if an individual has an immediate family member or several extended family members with colon cancer, especially if the cancer occurred when the patient was less than 55 years of age.
- Personal history of colon cancer or polyps: patients with history of adenomatous polyps that occurred prior to age 60 years are at increased risk for developing colorectal cancer.
- History of radiation therapy for cancer: Radiation therapy directed to the abdomen to treat another previous cancer can increase the chance of colon cancer.
- Aging: 90 percent of colorectal cancers occur in people older than 50 years of age. This is why it is extremely important that everyone reaching the age of 50 begin routine colon cancer screening. Risk increases with age.
- Race: African-Americans have been shown to be at a higher risk for colon cancer.
- Lifestyle factors: high fat diet, low fiber diet, sedentary lifestyle, smoking, alcohol and obesity are other factors that can increase the chance of colon cancer.
- Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (FAP): it is inherited condition that presents with a polyp in the colon. Almost 100 percent of patients develop colon cancer (usually by the age of 50). These patients need to start colonoscopy screening very early (before age of 25).
- Hereditary Nonpolyposis Colorectal Cancer (HNPCC): This is a condition whereby at least 3 members of family in 2 generations have been diagnosed with colon cancer, and one of them was diagnosed before the age of 50. Usually there is high incidence of ovarian and endometrial cancer in these patients as well.
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD): chronic Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease patients have a higher risk for developing colon cancer. Any patient with IBD should discuss having more frequent colonoscopy testing with their physician as this is recommended.
There are factors that decrease the risk of colon cancer:
- Aspirin and related medications in this group (called NSAID) may decrease the chance of developing colon cancer.
- Calcium: Studies have shown that people with a higher calcium intake have a lower chance of developing colon cancer.
Fortunately colon cancer is preventable. A person without a self and/or family history of colon cancer should begin to schedule regular screening colonoscopies at age 50. Usually the first manifestation or introduction to colon cancer is a polyp. A polyp is small clump of cells that forms the lining of colon.
Colon cancer can cause a variety of symptoms, some of which are:
Bright colored blood in the stool or rectal bleeding, thin caliber stool, continual constipation or diarrhea (changes in bowel habits), unintentional weight loss, frequent discomfort in the lower abdomen, bloating that does not improve with treatment, anemia, weakness and fatigue.
There are different colon cancer screening tests:
- Colonoscopy: it is the most accurate and available method. It allows the physician to look at all parts of colon and exam it directly.
- Sigmoidoscopy: It is similar to colonoscopy, but only the rectum and the lower part of colon will be visualized. A colonoscopy covers the entire colon and is a more reliable test for colon cancer. A sigmoidoscopy is helpful when the location of a tumor or polyp is in the rectum or in the lower portion of the colon.
- Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT): a microscopic amount of blood is released into the stool with most colon cancers. A stool test can detect this blood. A yearly FOBT is recommended for those 50 years old and older. Although it does not replace the colonoscopy, it is good tool for a brief evaluation. Blood detection in the stool is not a definitive test for colon cancer. Other culprits can be hemorrhoids, ulcers, polyps and/or inflammatory bowel disease.
Our center utilizes a multidisciplinary team approach to your healthcare, which means that patients benefit from the combined expertise of physicians who have the knowledge, perspective and experience to address all aspects of your complete gastroenterological care including colorectal cancer screening.
We offer the most advanced diagnostic techniques and treatments for a wide variety of gastroenterological conditions. We also offer a full range of diagnostic procedures, as well as medical, surgical and minimally invasive treatment options to meet the individual needs of patients with gastroenterological conditions of any kind. Contact us if you are experiencing gastrointestinal issues that have not yet been addressed by our physicians.