Health Info & Resources for Seniors
Reduce Your Risk of Colorectal Cancer
The risk of colorectal cancer increases with age. In fact, according to cancer.net, the average age at the time of diagnosis for men is 68 and for women is 72. For rectal cancer, it is age 63 for both men and women. Older patients who are diagnosed with colorectal cancer face unique challenges, specifically with regard to cancer treatment. But, fortunately, colonoscopy can help reduce your risk.
“Colonoscopy saves lives in two ways,” says gastroenterologist Loveleen Sidhu, MD. “First, should cancer be present, colonoscopy helps us to detect the disease in its earliest stages when treatment is more effective. Second, colonoscopy enables us to identify and remove pre-cancerous growths, called polyps, consequently preventing the cancer from ever developing.” A polyp is a small clump of cells on the inner wall of the colon and rectum commonly found in adults over 50. While most are harmless, some can develop into colon cancer.
During a colonoscopy, a physician uses a thin, flexible tube equipped with a video camera to look into the patient’s colon. The camera projects pictures onto a screen of the inside of inside of colon and enables the doctor to remove polyps and abnormal growths. The procedure usually last about 30 minutes and patients usually receive anesthesia. A day or so before the procedure, the patient is provided with very strong laxatives to clean out the colon.
Even though it has been shown that colonoscopy saves lives, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that a third of adults aged 50 to 75 years have not been tested for colorectal cancer.
“If we could persuade more people to get a colonoscopy, just think of the needless suffering we could prevent,” says Dr. Sidhu. He suggests that individuals get a screening colonoscopy every 10 years beginning at age 50. Should polyps be found, colonoscopy should be repeated sooner.
He also recommends the procedure at a younger age, or more frequently, should the patient have:
A personal history of colorectal cancer
A personal history of inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease)
A strong family history of colorectal cancer or polyps
A known family history of a hereditary colorectal cancer syndrome
If you are over 50 and have not had a colonoscopy talk to your family doctor. To schedule a colonoscopy, call St. Luke’s InfoLink toll-free at 1-866-STLUKES (785-8537).