Colorectal cancer is one of the deadliest of all cancers. However, with early detection, it is also one of the most preventable. The CDC reports 60 percent of Americans between the ages of 50 and 75 receive regular screenings, which is an improvement in recent years, yet shy of their goal of 70 percent by 2020. The uptick in screenings is paying off, according to the CDC. Between 2003 and 2007 colorectal cancer screenings prevented 66,000 cases and saved 32,000 lives.
Why Screening is Important
Fear is a leading reason many people say they don’t get screenings like a colonoscopy. Whether fear of the results or the preparation for the screening, Americans are putting themselves at an unnecessary risk. One of the most commonly known and used screenings for colorectal cancer is a colonoscopy, which helps prevent colorectal cancer by finding and removing cancerous or pre-cancerous polyps, abnormal growths in the colon. Without screening for colon cancer, these polyps can grow throughout the colon with few to no symptoms. However, if polyps are discovered through screening, they can easily be removed and biopsied to better understand a patient’s risk for developing cancer. Regular follow-up screenings can help decrease the chance of a colon cancer diagnosis in following years.
Colon Cancer and Age, Race and Family History
50 is the recommended age for most people to start getting regular colon cancer screenings, as 90% of colon cancer cases and 95% of deaths from colon cancer occur in people 50 or older. However, anyone who experiences signs of colon cancer, like blood in their stool or unexplained weight loss, as well as those with a family history may be advised by their physician to screen at a younger age.
African American men and women have a 20 percent higher incidence rate and 45 percent higher mortality rate of colon cancer than Caucasians, Asians, Hispanics, and Native Americans. Some studies suggest these higher rates are due to a lower incidence of screenings among African Americans.
People with a family history of colon cancer, especially when cancer affected first-degree relative, parent or sibling, have a higher risk for developing colon cancer than people with no family history. A recent study found that when colon cancer develops in patients with a family history, it may also be more aggressive and life-threatening. Anyone with a family history of colon cancer needs to talk with their doctor about screening and prevention, prior to turning 50.
Education, Prevention are Key
It is possible to prevent colon cancer and deaths from colon cancer. Education, understanding risk factors and staying up to date on regular screenings are key for prevention. Join Silver Elite for a free seminar with Utica Park Clinic Gastroenterologist Dr. Christopher Lynch at Hillcrest South January 15. For more information on attending this event and to register, click here.
Silver Elite is a FREE program that offers fun events and in-hospital benefits for ages 60+, the only requirement for joining. Call 918-579-6060 or visit SilverElite.org to learn more.