In Honor of Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, Let’s Talk About Prevention

In Honor of Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, Let’s Talk About Prevention

By Ada Brainsky, M.D., Medical Director, Operations Management

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States for both men and women combined. Nearly five percent of Americans will develop colorectal cancer in their lifetime. Because there are often no symptoms when it is first developing, colorectal cancer can only be caught early through regular screening. Most colon cancers start as non-cancerous growths called polyps. If polyps are found and removed while they are still non-cancerous, cancer can be prevented. If colorectal cancer has already developed, more than 80% of patients can be cured when the cancer is detected and treated in the earliest stages.

To lower your risk of colorectal cancer, the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons recommends that you:

  • Get regular colorectal cancer screenings after age 50.
  • Eat a low-fat, high-fiber diet.
  • If you use alcohol, drink only in moderation. If you use tobacco, quit. If you don’t use tobacco, don’t start. Alcohol and tobacco in combination are linked to colorectal cancer and other gastrointestinal cancers.
  • Exercise regularly and maintain a normal body weight.

People with an average risk of colorectal cancer should begin screening at age 50. Any one of the following screening strategies is recommended by the American Cancer Society:

  • Colonoscopy every 10 years
  • Computed tomographic colonography (CTC) every five years
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years, with or without an immunochemical stool test
  • Stool testing every year (for guaiac and immunochemical occult blood tests)
  • Stool testing every three years using a DNA assay and a collection of a full bowel movement

Some people are at a higher risk for colorectal cancer and should be screened at an age younger than 50, including those with a personal or family history of inflammatory bowel disease; colorectal cancer or polyps; or ovarian, endometrial or breast cancer.

Most people can stop being screened around the age of 75, or ,at the latest age 85.

Talk with your doctor to determine which screening strategy is best for you. Being screened–no matter by what strategy–is more important than which test you choose!

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