By Patricia Hayes, M.D. – Medical Director
Among cancers that affect both men and women, Colorectal Cancer (cancer of the colon or rectum) is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. Every year, about 140,000 Americans are diagnosed with colorectal cancer, and more than 50,000 people die from it. The exact cause is unknown but some risk factors associated with colon cancer are genetics, age, family history, obesity, smoking, certain diets and heavy drinking. And according to Dr. Lynn O’Connor, “African Americans tend to have the highest rate of death and the lowest rate of survival when compared with all other racial groups. Reasons include “lower screening rates in minorities, later stage of disease at presentation and diminished access to healthcare.”
Fortunately, this disease is highly preventable and treatable when caught early. The American Cancer Society, The American College of Physicians and the United States Preventative Task Force recommend screening for colorectal cancer in normal risk patients beginning at age 50 years and continuing until age 75 years.
Colonoscopies are one of the best ways to detect colon cancer since they can detect and remove polyps before they become cancerous but there are many ways to get screened. Other screening methods include certain stool tests looking for blood and DNA, CT scans and sigmoidoscopy.
If you’re over age 50 and haven’t been screened for colon cancer, now is the time to do so. Speak to your medical provider about what option is best for you and get screened!