Colorectal Cancer

In the U.S. last year, 136,000 people were diagnosed with colorectal cancer and 50,000 died of the disease according to data from the National Cancer Institute. This is the second leading cause of death in the U.S. It tend sot his some groups more than others. On minorities, the toll is very high according to director of FDA’s Office of Minority Health Jonca Bull, M.D. Populations that don’t get a lot of screening or get early treatment, die earlier. This impacts Hispanics, African Americans, Alaska Natives, and Indians. Early detection, treatment and referral can reduce the disparities in deaths from the disease.

Lives are Saved through Screening

Precancerous growths or polyps are the beginnings of colorectal cancer in the large intestine of the rectum. People that have signs of colorectal cancer or precancerous growths don’t always have any symptoms of the disease. Screening is important because suspicious tissue and growths can be removed before they turn into cancers.

How and When Should I get screened?

At age 50 you should get screen if you have any risk factors or developing colorectal cancer. People that are at a higher risk may need to get screened earlier on in life and may have to get more frequent screening. You can speak with your doctor to see what the best option for you. Several of the options include:

  • Colonoscopy – This is where a thin tube containing a light is inserted to look at the rectum and the colon for any growths, cancer, or abnormal tissues. You are sedated for this test. Routine screening needed every 10 years.
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy – The doctor uses a thin tube and a light to look in the lower third of the colon as well as the rectum for abnormal tissues, growths or cancers. The thin tube may also include a tool which takes abnormal tissues for further examination. Routine screening is needed every 5 years.
  • Fecal blood test (gFOBTor FIT test) – You use a home kit provided by your physician and take a sample of your stool and take it to the lab. The sample is checked for blood and signs of cancer. If there’s blood, a colonoscopy is needed to determine the cause. Screening is needed once per year.
  • Stool (DNA test ) – you use a kit provided by your physician and provide a stool sample for the lab. It’s checked for genetic changes as well as blood. If there’s a positive test then you’ll need a colonoscopy. Routine screening is needed every three years.
  • Computed tomography colonography or “virtual colonoscopy” – This test is an X-ray imaging procedure which provided 3D and 2D views of the colon from the rectum as well as the lower end of the small intestine. There’s also some visualization of the small bowel. The colon is gently inflated with air through a small tube tip which is placed in the rectum. Routine screening is needed every 5 years.

Talk to your physician about regular colorectal screening procedures.