Why is screening for Colon Cancer effective?

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Why is screening for Colon Cancer effective?

According to the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (ASGE), colonoscopy remains the most effective screening option for colorectal cancer.

Colonoscopy is widely accepted as the best method for colon cancer screening because it allows the trained physician to thoroughly evaluate the entire colon. Colonoscopy has a high detection rate for polyps, including small lesions, and the ability to remove them immediately during the procedure, rather than scheduling a second exam. Biopsies can also be taken of any abnormal areas at the same time as the screening or diagnostic test.

“Although there have been recent studies showing improvements in other colon cancer screening modalities, colonoscopy is the most effective because it is both diagnostic and therapeutic. Not only does it allow us to see the entire colon and identify polyps of all sizes, but it also allows us to remove polyps during the same exam, before they turn into cancer,” said Mark Pochapin, MD, spokesperson for the ASGE. “Many colorectal cancer deaths can be prevented through proper detection. If you are over 50 or have a family history of colorectal cancer, talk to your doctor about getting screened today.”
Earlier this year, the American Cancer Society announced drops in cancer deaths, which were attributed to earlier detection and improved treatment. The biggest decrease occurred in colorectal cancer deaths.

A 2006 study by Yale researchers found that, as Medicare coverage for colorectal cancer screening expanded, so did colonoscopies and with that, early cancer detection rates. The key variable in survival statistics among cancers, including colorectal, is early detection and prevention. These findings support ASGE’s position that colonoscopy is the most effective screening and prevention method.

Colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in men and women and the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States, killing nearly 56,000 people each year. Many of those deaths could be prevented with earlier detection. The five-year relative survival rate for people whose colorectal cancer is treated in an early stage is greater than 90 percent. Unfortunately, only 39 percent of colorectal cancers are found at that early stage. Once the cancer has spread to nearby organs or lymph nodes, the five-year relative survival rate decreases dramatically.

ASGE screening guidelines recommend that, beginning at age 50, asymptomatic men and women at average risk for developing colorectal cancer should have a colonoscopy every 10 years. People with risk factors, such as a family history of colon cancer, should begin earlier. Patients are advised to discuss their risk factors with their physician to determine when to begin routine colorectal cancer screening and how often they should be screened.

Colorectal cancer can be present in people without symptoms, known family history, or predisposing conditions, such as inflammatory bowel disease.

The following symptoms, however, might indicate colorectal cancer:

  • Change in bowel habits
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Narrower than normal stools
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Constant tiredness
  • Blood in the stool
  • Feeling that the bowel does not empty completely
  • Abdominal discomfort-gas, bloating, fullness, cramps
  • Unexplained anemia