Colon Cancer: Family History is Important

This March, the American Cancer Society is encouraging all men and women age 50 and older to make getting tested for colon cancer a priority. Those that have a personal or family history of colon cancer should talk with their doctors about being tested sooner.

“Since colon cancer is preventable, screening is a life-saving effort that we consider a priority,” said Jackie Young, PhD, Chief Staff Officer. Pre-cancerous polyps can be detected and removed during screening, which can prevent them from becoming cancerous.

Colorectal cancer (commonly referred to as colon cancer) is one of only two cancers that can actually be prevented through testing. Overall, colon cancer rates have declined rapidly in both men and women in the past two decades, due in part to early detection and removal of precancerous polyps. However, only 32 percent of Hispanics and Latinos aged 50 and older have been tested (compared to 50 percent of the overall population).

“We have an opportunity to significantly reduce death rates from colon cancer through regular testing,” said Young. “However, there may be barriers to screening such as a lack of health insurance or lack of information. We hope that people will use this month – National Colon Cancer Awareness Month – as an opportunity to talk to their doctors, family members and friends about getting tested. By doing so, they are taking a key step toward staying well.”

In Hawaii an estimated 680 cases of colorectal cancer are expected to occur in 2012, and 240 deaths are expected. Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in both men and women. Risk factors for colon cancer include a personal family history of the disease.

Now most people with private insurance or Medicare are covered for colon cancer screening tests. Check with your health care provider before scheduling testing to determine if you have any out-of-pocket costs.

There are steps you can take every day to stay well and reduce your risk of colon cancer. The American Cancer Society recommends that adults maintain a healthy weight by being physically active and eating a well-balanced diet. Limiting the amount of alcohol and limiting intake of processed and red meats are also steps you can take every day to reduce your risk of this disease.

Screening for colorectal cancer has been proven to reduce deaths from the disease both by decreasing the number of people who are diagnosed with it and by finding a higher proportion of cancers at early, more treatable stages. Overall, colorectal cancer rates have declined rapidly in both men and women in the past two decades, due in part to early detection and removal of precancerous polyps.

The Society recommends the following tests to find colorectal cancer early:

Tests That Detect Adenomatous Polyps and Cancer

  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 years, or
  • Colonoscopy every 10 years, or
  • Double contrast barium enema (DCBE) every 5 years, or
  • CT colonography (CTC) every 5 years

Tests That Primarily Detect Cancer

  • Annual guaiac-based fecal occult blood test (gFOBT) with high test sensitivity for cancer, or
  • Annual fecal immunochemical test (FIT) with high test sensitivity for cancer, or
  • Stool DNA test (sDNA), with high sensitivity for cancer, interval uncertain. 

For more information about colon cancer, visit cancer.org/colon.

 

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