If You Are 50 And Over, Get Screened For Colorectal Cancer

Armen Hareyan's picture
Advertisement

As a new year approaches, the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (ASGE) encourages all men and women age 50 and over to add getting screened for colorectal cancer to their list of New Year's resolutions for 2008. Recent studies have confirmed that a majority of Americans who should be screened for colorectal cancer are not. Colorectal cancer is a preventable and treatable disease when caught in its early stages. If you are age 50 or over, talk to your doctor about the colorectal cancer screening method that is best for you.

Colorectal cancer almost always develops from abnormal growths, called polyps, in the colon or rectum. Screening through colonoscopy saves lives by detecting and removing the precancerous polyps before they become cancerous.

Colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in men and women and the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States, killing nearly 56,000 people each year. Many of those deaths could be prevented with earlier detection. The five-year relative survival rate for people whose colorectal cancer is treated in an early stage is greater than 90 percent. Unfortunately, only 39 percent of colorectal cancers are found at that early stage. Once the cancer has spread to nearby organs or lymph nodes, the five-year relative survival rate decreases dramatically.

ASGE screening guidelines recommend that, beginning at age 50, men and women at average risk for developing colorectal cancer should begin colorectal cancer screening. People with risk factors, such as a family history of colorectal cancer, should begin at an earlier age. Patients are advised to discuss their risk factors with their physician to determine when to begin routine colorectal cancer screening and how often they should be screened. Colonoscopy is a procedure which looks at the entire colon and plays a very important role in colorectal cancer prevention because it is the only method that is both diagnostic and therapeutic. Not only does colonoscopy view the entire colon, but it also removes polyps before they turn into cancer.

Advertisement

Colorectal cancer can be present in people without symptoms, known family history, or predisposing conditions, such as inflammatory bowel disease.

While common in other benign conditions, the following symptoms might indicate colorectal cancer:

-- Unexplained change in bowel habits

-- Unexplained weight loss

-- Blood in the stool

-- Unexplained anemia

Advertisement