Posts Tagged ‘colon cancer screening’

Colon Cancer Screening Options

colon cancer screening testsColon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States for both men and women. Fortunately, the death rate is in decline, in large part due to an increase in preventive screening.

Colon cancer screening is one of the most effective early detection and prevention services available in medicine today. By identifying and removing tumors in the colon early on, small cancers, as well as pre-cancerous lesions that have a risk of turning into cancer, can be eliminated.

Risk Factors

There are certain factors that put people at an increased risk of colon cancer. Family history is one. People who are most at risk are persons who have a first degree family member—mother, father, brother, sister—who’s had colon cancer.

People who have Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis or other specific diseases of the colon may also be at risk of developing colon cancer.

Behavioral risk factors come into play as well. Being obese, not engaging in physical activity, and having a low-fiber, low plant-based diet all contribute to an increased risk of colon cancer.

Ease of Screening

The importance of cancer screening cannot be overstated. Colon cancer is uniquely easy to screen for, for two important reasons.

First, colon cancer is a very slow progressing cancer. It takes a very long time for colon cancer to grow. It can even take a couple of decades. This makes it possible to catch it early and to also go longer between screenings.

Second, colon cancer screening is actually identifying cancer and pre-cancerous lesions that are technically outside of the body. It’s not like having to do a breast biopsy for breast cancer or screening for lung cancer where you actually have to go into people’s chests. You can actually find out what’s going on along the lining of the colon and stop progression before disease enters the body tissues.

Two Major Screening Options

There are two primary approaches to screening for colon cancer, and which method is used will determine the frequency of screening.

One approach is where the actual anatomy or structure of the colon is evaluated. This method is accomplished either through X-ray testing or a colonoscopy. The colonoscopy is the most advanced and thorough option and only needs to be done once every ten years.

The other approach involves obtaining stool and looking to see if there is any blood or evidence of cancer components. This method of testing must be done as frequently as every year to every three years, depending on the specific test.

Get Screened—It Could Save Your Life

Know your risk factors, discuss them with your doctor, and get screened. For the average American, the recommendations are to begin screening around age 50. Frequency of testing depends upon what test is used.

Most hospital facilities have set up efficient systems for getting people screened, and again, it’s the type of thing you can discuss with your doctor about what options are available.

Click here to listen to a podcast about colon cancer screening with Dr. Matthew McKenna, Director of the Division of Preventive Medicine in the Department of Family and Preventative Medicine at Emory Healthcare.

 

Learn More

Talk to your primary care physician about your risk of colorectal cancer and to determine if you should schedule a colonoscopy. At Winship Cancer Institute, we’re committed to advancing the standard of care for all our patients, including those diagnosed with colon or rectal cancer. Learn more about our colorectal cancer treatment program or schedule an appointment with our gastrointestinal specialists by calling (404) 778-1900.

Talk to Our Nurses

Emory HealthConnection is where registered nurses can help you find a location or specialist that’s right for you. Call 404-778-7777 from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST (M-F).

Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University

Seeing over 17,000 patients a year, Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University is Georgia’s only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center and serves as the coordinating center for cancer research, education and care throughout Emory University.

 

About Dr. McKenna

Matthew McKenna, MDMatthew T. McKenna, MD, is the director of Emory University’s Division of Preventive Medicine, and also serves as professor of Medicine in Emory’s Department of Family and Preventive Medicine. He has extensive experience in public health and preventive medicine. From 1989 – 2010, he worked for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and before joining the Emory faculty he was the medical director for the Fulton County (the county where the city of Atlanta is located) Department of Health and Wellness from 2010 to 2015. Dr. McKenna is a graduate of the Emory University School of Medicine and he completed his residency in Family Medicine and a post-doctoral fellowship in epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh.

Dr. McKenna joined CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service Program in 1989 and completed the CDC residency in General Preventive Medicine and Public Health in 1992. He subsequently assumed positions of increasing responsibility throughout his career working in a wide range of areas, such as cancer control, tuberculosis, HIV and his last position at CDC was as the director of the Office on Smoking and Health. He is board certified in Family Medicine and Preventive Medicine. Dr. McKenna serves as a volunteer, expert consultant to the Guideline Development Group of the American Cancer Society. That group provided input to the creation of the Colorectal Cancer Screening guidelines that were issued by the Society in May of 2018.

Get the Facts About Colonoscopies

ColonoscopyColorectal cancer is one of the most common cancers in the United States, accounting for roughly 50,000 deaths each year. In 2018 alone more than 140,000 individuals were diagnosed, according to the American Cancer Society.

Fortunately, there’s a safe and effective way to identify precancerous cells and prevent colorectal cancer: the colonoscopy. Research continues to show the clear impact this screening has on saving lives. One recent study found that, among men and women with an average risk of colorectal cancer, colonoscopies reduced the risk of death from colon or rectal cancer by 67 percent.

Still, despite this evidence, many of us are hesitant to schedule our regular screening. Some of us think of the procedure as uncomfortable or embarrassing, or we may want to avoid the seemingly unpleasant prep to clear our intestines. But the more we know the more we’ll understand the push towards these important screenings. Discover the truth about colonoscopies, and why you should schedule a screening today.

Who Needs a Colonoscopy?

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that all adults begin colorectal screenings at age 50 and continue with screenings through age 75. Based on the findings of your results, you may not need to return for another colonoscopy for 5-10 years.

Colonoscopies are not the only screening option to detect colorectal cancer, but it is the most effective. Your primary care provider will discuss screening options, including which is the best for you.

What Should I Expect During a Colonoscopy?

A colonoscopy allows your doctor to see the entire length of your rectum and colon to look for and remove abnormal growths or polyps. You’ll be asked to prepare for the procedure before it’s scheduled. This preparation includes:

  • Emptying the bowels by drinking a prescribed laxative and using enemas
  • Following a liquid-only diet for 24 hours before the procedure

Right before the procedure, you’ll receive sedation to help you relax and go to sleep. Then, your doctor will insert a colonoscope (a flexible, lighted tube with a small video camera on the end) slowly into your rectum and colon. If any polyps or growths are found, your doctor can remove them immediately.

What Are the Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer?

A colonoscopy can identify colorectal cancer before symptoms appear, which improves treatment and outcomes. Common symptoms of colorectal cancer include:

  • Bloating or feeling full
  • Change in bowel habits, including
    • Diarrhea or constipation
    • Feeling as though bowel does not empty completely
    • Blood in stool
    • Stool that is narrower than usual
  • Feeling very tired all the time
  • Frequent gas pains or cramps
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Weight loss

It’s important to note that these symptoms may not necessarily be a result of colorectal cancer. Other health problems can produce similar symptoms, which is why it’s important to contact your physician if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms.

What Are the Risk Factors for Colorectal Cancer?

The main risk factors for colorectal cancer are uncontrollable. They include heredity, family history and personal medical history. Other risk factors include:

  • Diabetes
  • Other controllable factors
    • Alcohol consumption
    • Obesity
    • Processed meat consumption
    • Red meat consumption
    • Smoking
  • Presence of an inflammatory bowel disease (i.e., Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, etc.)

Remember, early detection is your best chance for a cure. You should contact your physician if you’re experiencing symptoms or are at risk for colorectal cancer. If your physician feels it’s appropriate, a screening test such as a colonoscopy may be recommended to rule out the possibility of cancer.

Learn More

Talk to your primary care physician about your risk of colorectal cancer and to determine if you should schedule a colonoscopy. At Winship Cancer Institute, we’re committed to advancing the standard of care for all our patients, including those diagnosed with colon or rectal cancer. Learn more about our colorectal cancer treatment program or schedule an appointment with our gastrointestinal specialists by calling (404) 778-1900.

Talk to Our Nurses

Emory HealthConnection is where registered nurses can help you find a location or specialist that’s right for you. Call 404-778-7777 from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST (M-F).

Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University

Seeing over 17,000 patients a year, Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University is Georgia’s only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center and serves as the coordinating center for cancer research, education and care throughout Emory University.

 

About Dr. McKenna

Matthew McKenna, MDMatthew T. McKenna, MD, is the director of Emory University’s Division of Preventive Medicine, and also serves as professor of Medicine in Emory’s Department of Family and Preventive Medicine. He has extensive experience in public health and preventive medicine. From 1989 – 2010, he worked for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and before joining the Emory faculty he was the medical director for the Fulton County (the county where the city of Atlanta is located) Department of Health and Wellness from 2010 to 2015.Dr. McKenna is a graduate of the Emory University School of Medicine and he completed his residency in Family Medicine and a post-doctoral fellowship in epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh.

Dr. McKenna joined CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service Program in 1989 and completed the CDC residency in General Preventive Medicine and Public Health in 1992. He subsequently assumed positions of increasing responsibility throughout his career working in a wide range of areas, such as cancer control, tuberculosis, HIV and his last position at CDC was as the director of the Office on Smoking and Health. He is board certified in Family Medicine and Preventive Medicine. Dr. McKenna serves as a volunteer, expert consultant to the Guideline Development Group of the American Cancer Society. That group provided input to the creation of the Colorectal Cancer Screening guidelines that were issued by the Society in May of 2018.

“Top Secret” Cancer Facts Worth Sharing

cancer secretsIt’s time to stop being embarrassed about the 3rd most commonly diagnosed cancer and the 3rd leading cause of cancer death for both men and women. More than 140,000 people will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer this year and nearly 50,000 will lose their battle to the disease according to The American Cancer Society.

It’s colon cancer awareness month – share the facts about how a colorectal cancer screening could save your life.

A study, published in JAMA Surgery and recently reported in the NYT, showed that incidences of colorectal cancer have been decreasing by about 1 percent a year since the mid 1980s. Simply said, more people under the recommended screening age of 50 are being diagnosed with colorectal cancer.

Colon cancer is not embarrassing. There’s simply no sense in keeping secrets from your physician. If you have a history of colorectal cancer in your family or have particular symptoms that you’re unsure about then it’s time to get the facts from your doctor. Speak openly about your risk factors, prevention, early detection, and treatment.
Prevention and early detection of colorectal cancer are possible by appropriately scheduling a colorectal cancer screening. A conversation with your doctor is always confidential; make it honest and candid.

As a Nurse Practitioner in gastrointestinal cancers, I have had many patients who have stated that they wish they had gotten a colonoscopy as recommended for colorectal cancer screening. They also say they now preach to everyone they know to get their colonoscopies.

Find a primary physician through our Emory Healthcare Network or call Health Connection at 404-778-7777 to learn more from a registered nurse. No topic is top secret or off limits.

About Ms. Brutcher
Edith Brutcher

A chemotherapy infusion specialist and adult nurse practitioner, Ms. Brutcher’s clinical specialties include gastrointestinal and aerodigestive cancers. She has 27 years experience as a Registered Nurse, and 8 years as an Adult Nurse Practitioner with Medical Oncology. She obtained her Master of Science in Nursing Adult Practitioner, specializing in oncology and immunology, at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.

Related Resources

Colon Cancer Chat Transcript
An Intro to Colorectal Cancer Part I: Risk Factors, Symptoms & Diagnosis
An Intro to Colorectal Cancer Part II: Prevention, Diagnosis & Treatment
Winship Cancer Institute – Colon Cancer Resources