Friday, December 14, 2018

Dr. Matthew Bogard, Iowa Doctor - Colorectal cancer is easy to treat if caught early

Colorectal cancer is easy to treat if caught early

I visited this topic back in November but it is important enough to review as March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month.  Among cancers that affect both men and women, it is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States. The National Cancer Institute estimates more than 142,000 Americans will be diagnosed with colon cancer this year and 50,000 people in this country will die from it.  The risks of getting colon cancer increase with age; more than 90% of cases are in patients 50 or older.

Colorectal cancer, more commonly called colon cancer, is an abnormal and uncontrolled growth arising in the last few feet of one’s bowels.  Almost all colon cancers develop over multiple years. Initially, they are slow growing and easy to treat “precancers” called adenomas or adenomatous polyps.  If not treated, this abnormal growth will invade the bowel and can erode completely through the colon while continuing to enlarge.

Risk factors for colon cancer include a family history of colon cancer in other relatives, diets low in fiber and whole grains and high in fats, and heavy alcohol intake, any smoking, and lack of exercise. 

Everyone should be screened for colon cancer beginning at age 50, although possibly sooner if you have a family history. The most accurate way of screening is through colonoscopy. A colonoscopy is a procedure where a doctor uses a very small camera to look at the insides of the colon.  If any polyps are found during colonoscopy, they are removed and sent to the laboratory for analysis.  The colonoscopy should be repeated every ten years until about age 80, although it may be recommended to repeat sooner.

In recent years, fewer patients nationwide are getting appropriate colon cancer screening.   The best way to make sure you are not one of the 142,000 Americans diagnosed with colorectal cancer in the next year is to be sure to undergo proper colon cancer screening.  If you are age 50 or older and have not had a colonoscopy within the last ten years you should talk to your doctor about scheduling one soon. 

*** Dr. Matthew Bogard, Iowa doctor, is an emergency medicine doctor primarily at the Lucas County Health Center in Chariton, Iowa. Presently, he is Board Certified in Family Medicine by the National Board of Physicians and Surgeons and the American Academy of Family Physicians.