What to know about colon cancer, as seen in the RGJ!

Every year as Valentine’s and St. Patrick’s Days approach, I am reminded that just around the corner are two of my favorite times of the year spring and March — Colon Cancer Awareness Month.

Not to make light, as there is nothing funny about a disease that kills more than 50,000 Americans annually despite the fact that it is preventable with screening, but only about 64 percent of Americans are up to date on screening, and even fewer Nevadans. In 2010, Nevada ranked 46th in being up to date in colon cancer screening among the 50 states and 47th in mortality from this disease.

Here are four important things about colon cancer screening that everyone should be aware of:

• The first is to know that you have a choice other than colonoscopy for screening. Although a colonoscopy every 10 years is the preferred option for preventing colon cancer, a second acceptable choice is a yearly stool FIT that checks for occult blood. This $15-20 test covered by insurance and done in the privacy of your own home will detect 85 percent of colon cancers, hopefully at an early treatable stage. Too many Americans simply won’t have a colonoscopy. Although a colonoscopy is preferred, a stool FIT is far better than doing nothing and joining the ranks of the 50,000.

• The second is to know the importance of a family history. If anyone has a family history of colon cancer in a parent, child or sibling, particularly if that cancer occurred before the age of 60, the risk of colon cancer can be 3-4 times higher than normal. Screening then should start 10 years prior to the age of the youngest family member with cancer, or age 40, whichever is earliest. Moreover, if that relative’s cancer occurred prior to age 60, screening should be done every five years instead of 10.

• The third is the importance of a thorough bowel preparation. Do not fear it. Every colonoscopy requires a cleansing of the colon to permit identification and removal of any small benign polyps present that could later develop into a cancer. This cleansing is as important as the procedure itself. Today’s polyp hidden by a poor prep can be tomorrow’s cancer.

Bowel preparations are much more acceptable than they use to be. The volumes are reduced by 50 percent, and the taste is more palatable. Cleansing is best and the preparation is better tolerated if it is split in halves, half taken the evening before and the other five hours before the procedure. Taking the preparation properly can be difficult, but the effort can save your life.

• The fourth is to speak to your family about the importance of screening. Each Valentine’s Day, consider whether you and your loved ones are up to date in colon cancer screening. There is nothing cuter than a couple’s colonoscopy during Colon Cancer Awareness Month.

John Gray is a Reno gastroenterologist.

 

For the complete article as it was posted: http://www.rgj.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2013303270035&nclick_check=1

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GI Consultants is accredited by the following: Nevada Colon Cancer Partnership, Screen for Life, American Gastroenterological Association, American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, Society of Gastroenterology Nurses and Associates, Inc., Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care, American College of Physicians - Internal Medicine, and is Board Certified by the American College of Gastroenterology.