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Colon Cancer Month: Defeating the third leading cause of cancer death

Written By | Mar 26, 2019
Colon cancer, Colon Cancer Awareness Month, colonoscopy

(image and design by Sutton Porter/courtesy of Laurie Edwards-Tate)

SAN DIEGO, March 26, 2019 — National Colon Cancer Awareness Month is recognized in March and according to colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths with an estimated 51,020 deaths in 2019.

Early detection of colon cancer is critical to increasing survival rates

Methods of testing and detecting colon cancer are sensitive topics. For many, talking about it causes embarrassment, emotional discomfort and even denial.
A lack of education regarding methods of early detection also prevents people from taking advantage of available colon cancer tests.

There are a variety of well-known screening options, and the National Institutes of Health provides the following helpful information:

FOBT is a non-invasive fecal blood study that can detect blood in the stool. It is a recommended test every one or two years for those aged 50 to 80. Estimates say this test reduces the number of colon cancer deaths by 15 to 33 percent.

Sigmoidoscopy examines the rectum and sigmoid colons using an invasive, flexible lighted tube. This screening is necessary every five years for those age 50 and over. Research shows this test reduces the rate of colon cancer deaths by 60 to 70 percent. Minimal colon cleansing preparation is necessary, and sedation is not likely necessary.

There are a variety of well-known screening options to choose from

Colonoscopy is the gold standard for early detection. It involves the use of an invasive, flexible lighted tube that examines the entire colon. Tissue samples of anything potentially suspicious might be taken. Polyps and/or abnormal growths may be removed. Doctors believe that this test reduces the rate of colon cancer deaths by 60 to 70 percent. Colon cleansing preparation is necessary, as is sedation.

Virtual colonoscopy uses a CT scanner to take a series of non-invasive pictures of the colon and rectum. The accuracy rate of this test is akin to a standard colonoscopy. However, the actual rate of the reduction of colon cancer deaths is unknown, probably due to insufficient research data. The medical community prefers the standard colonoscopy for testing. Colon cleansing preparation is necessary.

Double-contrast barium enema provides X-rays of the colon and rectum following the medical administration of a barium enema. This option may be ideal for those who cannot undergo a standard colonoscopy.
There is another, newer, non-invasive option available for colon cancer screening. It is called the fecal immunological test, or FIT, which detects human blood in the stool coming from the lower intestines.

FIT can detect potential problems

FIT can identify cancers, sometimes before they happen. Whether the problems are or are not related to colon cancer or signs that colon cancer is likely to develop.
Another of the benefits of this test is that no sedation or colon cleansing preparation is necessary.

A FIT kit is a do-it-yourself test, provided by healthcare professionals, with an at-home collection process, accompanied by instructions. Materials required for the self-collection process are provided with the kit.

Once the FIT kit procedures are complete, specimens are sent to a testing site in a secure envelope.
It is imperative that all people over 50 have a colon cancer screening every five years

If there is anything suspicious, your health care professional will likely suggest another type of test be or that immediate treatment begins.

With no risks involved and the ability to self-test at home without colon cleansing or sedation, FIT is a positive solution for those who are uncomfortable with the other colon health screening options.

“FITs caught more than three-quarters of colon tumors and were very good at ruling out cancers,” according to Amy Norton, health news reporter, as published in WebMD.

Recommendations for a stool test such as FIT are yearly

They have “very good potential as a screening tool,” says Dr. Elizabeth Liles, with the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research in Portland, Ore.

Major risk factors for developing colon cancer include age, family history, lifestyle, weight, diet, exercise and overall health choices, such as smoking or not smoking.

The risk factor for developing colon cancer is one out of every 20 persons. It is critical for anyone 50 and over to choose a method of colon cancer screening that is most personally comfortable and effective. After that do so routinely.

The life it could save just might be your own.

Until next time, enjoy the ride in good health!

Laurie Edwards-Tate

Since 1984, Laurie Edwards-Tate has served as President and Founder of At Your Home Familycare, a non-medical Home Care Aide Organization, serving seniors, disabled, infirm and children. Laurie is Board of Director 2018 (elected), Palomar Health; Executive Board Member; Chair Board Human Resources Committee; Member of Audits & Compliance Committee; Community Relations Committee.