Colon Cancer Screening

 

 

 

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States with over 120,000 new diagnoses and nearly 50,000 deaths related to this condition yearly.  Despite the efforts of many organizations such as the American Cancer Society and the renewed awareness in the media after the cry heralded by many celebrities, screening methods for this deadly cancer are under utilized by the general population.  

What is screening for colorectal cancer?

Screening means looking for cancer or colon polyps when patients have no symptoms. Finding colorectal cancer before symptoms develop dramatically improves the chance of survival. Identifying and removing colon polyps before they become cancerous actually prevents the development of colorectal cancer.

Who is at risk for colorectal cancer?

  • Everyone age 50 and older.
    The average age to develop colorectal cancer is 70 years, and 93% of cases occur in persons 50 years of age or older. Current recommendations are to begin screening at age 50 if there are no risk factors other than age for colorectal cancers. A person whose only risk factor is their age is said to be at average risk.
  • Men and women.
    Men tend to get colorectal cancer at an earlier age than women, but women live longer so they 'catch up' with men and thus the total number of cases in men and women is equal.
  • Anyone with a family history of colorectal cancer.
    If a person has a history of two or more first-degree relatives (parent, sibling, or child) with colorectal cancer, or any first-degree relatives diagnosed under age 60, the overall colorectal cancer risk is three to six times higher than that of the general population. For those with one first-degree relative diagnosed with colorectal cancer at age 60 or older, there is an approximate two times greater risk of colon cancer than that observed in the general population. Special screening programs are used for those with a family history of colorectal cancer. A well-documented family history of adenomas is also an important risk factor.