This past Sunday, we spoke with Dr. David Rivadeneira, Director of Surgical Services and Director of Colon & Rectal Surgery, on World Health News Radio about colon cancer in light of March being Colon Cancer Awareness Month. Dr. Rivadeneira explained prevention methods and that we're seeing a downward trend in colon cancer deaths.
Over 140,000 men and women are diagnosed with colon cancer and almost 50,000 die from this disease every year.
Colon cancer is preventable and treatable. A healthy diet, high in fruits, vegetables, fiber and low in red meat is key. Family history can increase your risk. If you've had an early diagnosis of other cancers like uterine, ovarian, gastric, renal or breast cancer you should be screening for colon cancer much earlier.
- Blood in stool
- Change of caliber in stool
- Sudden weight loss
A Colonoscopy is no doubt the gold standard in screening for colorectal diseases. However, some patients do experience complications from the procedure. Both men and women should begin screening starting at the age of 50 every 10 years. Depending on the results of the test, patients may need another test done sooner, especially if polyps are found. We know that many people are afraid of the entire colonoscopy procedure from prep to finish.
The truth is that prep can be very difficult. Some people experience bloating or abdominal pain. 25% of people over the age of 50 aren't getting a colonscopy. Whether it's from lack of knowledge, education or fear, we don't know.
Alternatives to Colonoscopy
There are alternatives methods to a colonoscopy. Cologuard is an alternative, non-invasive at-home test for colon disease approved by the FDA. The test evaluates genetic abnormalities in the actual stool. Dr.Rivadeneira airs on the side of caution.
"We know the majority of people will never sign up for a colonscopy. Therefore I think it's a good idea to have other non-invasive methods available to the public." There should be other tests available. Cologuard is one of them and virtual colonoscopy is another acceptable method.
Bottom line: Get screened and talk to your doctor about your risk for any colon disease. March is a time to be aware of this disease and remember, prevention is key.