Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month: Stressing Importance of Colon Cancer Screenings
|Fayez Abboud, MD
Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among American men and women, and is probably the easiest to prevent through screening. In general, doctors consider colonoscopy the gold standard of colon cancer screening tests.
One of several screening tests recommended by the American Cancer Society, colonoscopy, uses a thin, lighted tube about the diameter of a finger to examine the entire length of the colon. When cancer or a suspicious looking polyp is found, it is removed and tested in the laboratory for the existence of cancer cells.
Most colon cancers develop as polyps, small, wart-like growths in the lining of the colon. Although the majority of these polyps are benign, a good number of those identified as adenomas are potentially cancerous or pre-cancerous. Even if another method is used for screening, colonoscopy must be used to remove adenomas so there is some advantage in combining detection and removal in one procedure.
Performed as an outpatient procedure under heavy sedation, colonoscopy is considered a highly effective way of detecting cancer and, in many cases, removing precancerous growths before they become dangerous.
“Colonoscopy saves lives,” stressed gastroenterologist Fayez Abboud, M.D. of Digestive Specialty Care, Inc., located adjacent to Upper Valley Medical Center in Troy and at UVMC’s Hyatt Center in Tipp City.
On average, at least 25 percent of men and 15 percent of women age 50 and over may have polyps. Among persons carrying colorectal polyps, colonoscopy provides a 76-90 percent reduction of cancer, according to the National Polyp Study published by the New England Journal of Medicine in 1993. And a more recent study found that cancers and advanced adenomas were rare even five years later among persons with negative colonoscopies (no evidence of polyps).
When choosing a physician to perform a colonoscopy, experience is probably the most important factor. If you're planning to have a colonoscopy, it is probably a good idea to inquire about the number of colonoscopies your doctor has performed.
As a patient, you too play a role in improving the quality of colonoscopy results. The most difficult part is the bowel preparation, and doing it well, according to directions, is critical to a satisfactory screening test.
In addition to colonoscopy, options for colorectal cancer screening include:
- Fecal occult blood testing (which can be used in conjunction with other methods)
- Sigmoidoscopy, which examines the lower part of the colon only and is usually performed without anesthesia
- Double barium contrast enema, which is less expensive than colonoscopy but less effective at detecting polyps
- CT colonography, known as ‘virtual’ colonoscopy
“Health problems related to the stomach, colon and liver are highly prevalent in today’s fast-paced, stress-filled lifestyles,” Dr. Abboud said. “The good news is expert evaluation and management of such gastrointestinal conditions is more readily available than ever before.”
Digestive Specialty Care, Inc. specializes in colonoscopy, gastrointestinal endoscopy and capsule endoscopy, as well as other advanced technologies related to such conditions as:
colon cancer screening, acid reflux disease, esophageal stricture, Barrett’s esophagus, pancreatitis, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s Disease, diverticulosis/diverticulitis, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome and hemorrhoids
“There has been a growing need for this type of specialization, because with an aging population, you naturally get more gastrointestinal problems,” said Dr. Abboud.
He encourages those with questions about colonoscopy or other gastrointestinal issues to contact Digestive Specialty Care at (937) 440-9292.