Colorectal Cancer Screening
I feel that I’ve been talking a lot in the past weeks about our intestinal microbes and their surprising relationship to our hearts and overall health. And in that light I want to remind everyone about a very important screening regimen that no one wants to do – and may be putting off – for years!
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What is colorectal cancer?
Cancer, as a general term, occurs when cells grow out of control. These unchecked cells may spread to other parts of the body. Colorectal cancer starts in the colon or the rectum. Colon cancer and rectal cancer have many similarities. Colorectal cancers usually begin as a polyp, an abnormal growth on the inner lining of the colon or rectum. Not all polyps are cancer. The predilection to become cancer depends on the type of polyp and can be determined by a pathologist.
Colorectal screening regimen
– Average risk
Preventing cancer, not just early detection, is of utmost importance. Screening tests find and remove polyps before they become cancerous. Screening also detects dysplasia, another pre-cancerous condition where the cells look abnormal but not yet like true cancer cells. Starting at age 50, men and women with an average risk for developing colorectal cancer should talk with their physician about getting the screening test listed below that is most suited to their situation:
– Flexible sigmoidoscopy – every 5 years
– Colonoscopy – every 10 years
– Double-contrast barium enema – every 5 years
– CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy) – every 5 years
– Guaiac-based fecal occult blood test (gFOBT) – every year
– Fecal immunochemical test (FIT) – every year
– Stool DNA test – every 3 years
– Elevated risk
You are at a higher risk for developing colorectal cancer if you have:
– a personal or family history of colorectal cancer or polyps
– a history of inflammatory bowel disease, ulcerative colitis, or Crohn’s disease
– a family history of a hereditary colorectal cancer syndrome
Any of these may mean you need to start colorectal cancer screening before age 50 or be screened more frequently.
Steps you can take to lower your risk of developing colorectal cancer
The American Cancer Society recommends:
– Eat lots of fruit, vegetables, and whole grains
– Exercise regularly
– Control your weight
– Don’t smoke
— limit alcohol
Keep healthy! Your heart will thank you.
Dr. James Kneller treats atrial fibrillation, arrhythmia, and other heart conditions. He is an internationally recognized authority on cardiovascular health and personal development.