How Timely Screening Helps Reduce Colon Cancer Risk

Colon cancer is one of the most commonly occurring cancers in the US and also among the leading killer cancers. Nearly 5% of Americans are diagnosed with colon cancer every year. Most of the people diagnosed with colon cancer are above 50 years of age. Currently there are more than a million colon cancer survivors in the US alone.

A recent study revealed that married people suffering from cancer, including colon cancer have greater chances of survival. The heartwarming story of Tulsa based Maureen Raganis one such example. According to expert opinion of Dr. Larry Altshuler, Director of Oncology Intake at Cancer Treatment Centers of America(CTCA), the marital support system helps in the fight against cancer. Married couples typically tend to undergo screening early which helps to diagnose the condition in its early stage, thus improving chances of cure.

Some current data

The American Cancer Society has brought out a new report which states that among people above 50 years of age, the rate of colon cancer diagnosis has reduced by as much as 30% in the last decade. In more recent years, this decline has been even more- a little above 7.2% every year.There has also been a visible decline in the number of colon cancer deaths during the same period. The death rate has been declining by 3% every year in the past decade.

The credit for this drop can be given to more and people getting themselves screened as and when recommended by doctors. The report points out that if everyone goes for regular screenings, the number of deaths is likely to reduce further.

The number of people above 40 years of age getting colonoscopies has tripled during 2000 to 2010. Detection and removal of polyps as well as early detection of colon cancer has reduced the mortality rates.

The report also points out that the biggest reduction in the occurrence of colon cancer was in people above 65 years of age-they are eligible for free colon cancer screenings. At the same time, the incidence of colon cancer in younger people has slightly risen. This could be due to poor diet and lifestyle which leads to obesity.


What is screening? How can it help save lives?

The process of investigating people for cancer or pre-cancer even when there are no obvious symptoms is called screening. Screening can help save lives as it can detect polyps present in the colon or rectum. These polyps might not necessarily turn into cancer but having them removed prevents the risk of colon cancer. If colon cancer is already there, regular screenings increase your chance of finding it in the early stage, when it can be treated more easily.

Regular screenings can prove to be the most effective tool to prevent colon cancer. When the process of abnormal cells growing into polyps begins, it can take as long as ten or even fifteen years for colorectal cancer to develop. Screening can help find polyps before the turn into cancer. Removing the polyps can free a person from colon cancer risk.

The American Cancer Society recommends that people who have an average risk of colon cancer should begin their screenings after they turn 50. Even people who have no specific risk should begin screenings at this age as age itself is a risk factor for cancer. Some people could have a greater risk of colon cancer because of heredity and they should start their screenings earlier.


The future

Considered as the success story of the decade, reduced colon cancer incidence due to regular colonoscopy has raised hopes for further progress. The American Cancer Society has now set a new goal- by 2018 they aim to screen 80% of people with average risk for colon cancer. For this, more than 70 organizations have formed a coalition under the American Cancer Society and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to channelize efforts towards increasing the rates of colon cancer screening.

This means that more and more doctors need to educate their patients about the process and benefits of colonoscopy. It should also be made more affordable so that the cost does not forbid common people from having the tests conducted. Moreover, if health insurance providers offer insurance for colon cancer screening, more people will opt for it even if the process is somewhat expensive. Better collaboration between healthcare organizations, professionals and public can make this possible.