Colon Cancer: Facts, Prevention, and Screening.
4/10/98

Colon cancer is the second most common cancer in both men and women who don't smoke, surpassed only by breast cancer in women and prostate cancer in men.

There are 130,000 new cases of colon cancer each year in the U.S.

Early detection can control colon cancer, but a regular program of colon screening is the key to actually preventing this cancer. Colon cancer starts in polyps. By preventing or removing polyps, colon cancer can be avoided.

You can decrease your risk for colon cancer by reducing the amount of fat in your diet, increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables to five servings per day, exercising, limiting alcohol, eliminating tobacco intake, and watching your weight. Estrogen replacement may also lower colon cancer risk.

Numerous studies have now shown that many nonsteriodal anti-inflammatory drugs (especially aspirin) will prevent polyp formation and, subsequently, colon cancer. Aspirin has also been shown to help prevent heart attacks and stroke. Research has yet to define the age at which we should start taking aspirin, but it is estimated that up to half of all colon and rectal cancers could be eliminated by simply taking an aspirin each day. BayerŽ currently makes an 81 mg. stomach-coated tablet.

The optimum daily dose of aspirin is 81 mg
(equal to 1/4 of an adult tablet)


Screening for Colorectal Cancer:

  1. Fecal Occult Blood Testing. Starting at age 50, three stool tests are submitted to the lab annually.
  2. Digital Rectal Exam. Recommended annually, starting at age 40.
  3. Flexible Sigmoidoscopy. An office based test of the lower colon using a flexible fiberoptic scope. Recommended every 3-5 years, starting at age 50, in the normal-risk individual.

My personal advise is to start a program of colon cancer screening at age 50 in the normal-risk individual and start younger if you are at higher risk due to a family history of colon cancer or polyps.

I personally feel that the entire colon should be visualized every 10 years with a barium enema (an x-ray test of the colon done as an outpatient) or a colonoscopy, if you are at high-risk.

At three to five-year intervals after the barium enema, a flexible sigmoidoscopy will suffice.

Please discuss a program of colon cancer screening with your personal physician


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