Posts for: March, 2019
The sobering facts
Once upon a time, young people, women, and other segments of the population could rest easy knowing they were at very low risk for the brutal disease that is colon cancer. Unfortunately, that’s no longer the case. Colon cancer isn’t just for older males in poor health anymore. Young people, women, and otherwise healthy older men are all at a greater risk for colon cancer than ever before.
- Young Adults: The American Cancer Society recently changed colon cancer screening guidelines from testing beginning at age 50 to testing beginning at 45. This is a step in the right direction, but the rate of colon cancer among much younger adults is on the rise. According to this article, by 2030, colorectal cancer incidence rates will be up 90% in people between ages 20 and 34, and 28% for people between ages 35 and 49.
- African Americans: According to an article in U.S. News & World Report, “African-Americans are more likely to develop colorectal cancer at a younger age and to be at a more advanced stage when diagnosed.” There are a lot of socioeconomic factors at play here, including access to care, awareness, and lifestyle.
- Women: Colon cancer is the third leading cause of cancer death for American women. The perception used to be that men get colon cancer and women do not, however this notion is dangerously outdated. The truth is that 1 in 21 men will get colon cancer and 1 in 23 women will develop the disease. Early detection, as expected, is essential.
We encourage everyone, no matter who you are, to take colon cancer seriously and know that it could happen to you. Take this online assessment with your healthcare provider to determine your personal risk.
One Size Does Not Fit All
There are lots of options when it comes to colon cancer screenings—from at-home tests to colonoscopies—but which is the right one for you?
Colonoscopy: They require prep and sedation, but colonoscopies are the gold standard for colon cancer detection and prevention. The best part is that this test only has to be done once every ten years if your doctor doesn’t detect any concerns. This is also the only test for those with risk factors such as personal history of polyps, cancer, or family history of cancer.
At-home tests: Tried and true colon cancer screenings such as colonoscopies take time and require preparation. The makers of at-home tests know this and are offering solutions that screen for colon cancer at home with no sedation, less prep, and more comfort. So should this be everyone’s first step? Not necessarily: Like cutting your own bangs or doing your own electrical work, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. In studies, at-home tests have failed to detect more than 30% of pre-cancerous polyps. And as you may know, colon cancer rarely displays symptoms until it has advanced to the most life-threatening stage, so it’s usually recommended that you consider colonoscopy first, as it is the most effective way to prevent and detect colon cancer.
Flexible sigmoidoscopy: This is another option that requires less prep and no sedation. It can be uncomfortable but not painful. Where this test falls short is that it only covers about one-third of your colon, so, while more convenient, it’s not as thorough.
Double barium enema: Take an enema and then a few x-rays and you’re set with this procedure. It can be uncomfortable, however, and has a track record of missing larger polyps and cancerous ones.
CT colonography: Also known as “virtual colonoscopy,” it’s a bit of a misnomer. A CT scan is used to image the colon after air has been pumped into the bowel. It is effective in identifying medium to large polyps, but is ineffective in identifying small polyps. Additionally, it’s not covered by most insurance.
Talk with your GI provider to make sure you are getting the best screening possible for this deadly-but-preventable disease.