Each year more than 150,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with colorectal cancer, with 1 in 3 succumbing to the disease.
Catholic Health Gastroenterologist Christine Yu, MD, said those figures would decrease significantly if more people had a colorectal screening.
“Getting a colonoscopy is the most important thing people can do to avoid colorectal cancer,” Dr. Yu said. “Currently, only about 65% of those who should be screened based on their age, family history or other factors do so.”
American Cancer Society guidelines recommend that average-risk adults aged 45 years and older undergo a screening and continue to do so regularly until the age of 75. For people ages 76 through 85, the decision to be screened should be specific to the patient’s overall health.
Those at higher risk due to factors that include previous diagnosis of inflammatory bowel disease, family history of cancer or polyps, personal history of cancer or polyps, confirmed or suspected hereditary colorectal cancer syndrome, or personal history of getting radiation to the abdomen or pelvic area should be screened before the age of 45.
Encouraging a greater number of those eligible for colon screenings to do so continues to be a major point of emphasis for physicians. Dr. Yu said people avoid getting tested either because they think they are in good health, they’re unaware of risk factors or have a negative impression of the pre-test preparation needed to ensure a proper screening.
“While some may see the prep as inconvenient, it is important to understand that having a screening and identifying and removing polyps in the colon allows us to catch a possible issue early and prevent a bigger health problem in the future,” she said.
While the thought of a colonoscopy may be unpleasant, it is the gold standard for colon cancer screening because if a polyp is found it can be removed on the spot. Dr. Yu noted that there are several less invasive screening options available that can used based on an individual’s risk level. These include tests that examine the stool for signs of cancer or polyps, but may need to be done more often. An individual receiving a positive result from a stool-based test will need to follow up with his or her doctor for a colonoscopy.
“With the many screening options now available, it’s important for people to speak with their doctor and choose the solution that works best for them,” Dr. Yu explained. “Our goal is to help people lead longer lives and getting screened is the best tool we have to do that.”
Get more information on colorectal cancer treatment services offered by Catholic Health or call (844) 86-CANCER (844-862-2623).
To find a Catholic Health physician near you, please call (866) MY-LI-DOC (866-695-4362).