Barrington, IL - March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, which should be a friendly reminder for those 50 and older to schedule an appointment for a colonoscopy screening. If everyone 50 years or older had regular screening tests, at least 60 percent of deaths from this cancer could be avoided.
According to Dr. Mary Kane, a gastroenterologist at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington, Ill., colorectal cancer is quite preventable since it almost always develops from precancerous polyps (abnormal growths) in the colon or rectum.
"This really is one of the best ways to prevent colorectal cancer, which is a leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States," says Dr. Kane. "Screening tests can find precancerous polyps so that they can be removed before they turn into cancer. Screening tests can also find colorectal cancer early, when treatment works best."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 140,000 Americans are diagnosed every year with colorectal cancer, and more than 50,000 people die from it. The incidence of colorectal cancer is starting to decline since colonoscopy screening has become more widespread.
"We recommend that anyone over age 50 or with a family history of colon cancer or polyps gets screened," says Dr. Kane. "Precancerous polyps and early-stage colorectal cancer don't always cause symptoms, especially at first. This means that someone could have polyps or colorectal cancer and not know it. That is why having a screening test is so important."
Colonoscopy is performed under sedation so patients do not feel it or remember it. The test requires bowel preparation the night before, but most people can work the day before and the day after the test. Many insurance plans and Medicare help pay for colorectal cancer screening. To arrange colorectal cancer screening, contact your primary care physician or your gastroenterologist.