Posted: Monday, March 25, 2024

Preventative Measures for Colorectal Cancer

In a significant move toward enhancing colorectal health, the standard screening guidelines have been revised, emphasizing the importance of early detection and prevention. The new guidelines recommend individuals ages 45 and older undergo a colonoscopy, a shift from the previous age threshold of 50. Additionally, those with a family history of colon cancer should initiate their first colonoscopy a decade earlier than the age of their diagnosed family member, ensuring a proactive approach to reduce risk. Screening for individuals with specific genetic or medical conditions, such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) and Lynch syndrome is tailored to begin at different ages with varying intervals between scopes. Your health provider can assist in understanding and following these recommendations effectively.

“One of the goals of a colonoscopy is to find abnormal growths (polyps) at an early stage and remove them before becoming malignant. If a polyp is found at an early stage, oftentimes it can be removed during colonoscopy and sent to pathology without further need for intervention. If a polyp is biopsied during colonoscopy and shown to have cancerous cells or pre-cancerous characteristics, then that is when a colorectal surgeon joins the care team for the patient and discusses possible surgical interventions such as resection. A colonoscopy also can help detect diseases of the colon that might put a patient at higher risk of colorectal cancers,” said Caroline Sudhoff, physician assistant with Blount Memorial Physicians Group – Surgery.

Colorectal cancer stands as the third most diagnosed cancer in males and the second most diagnosed in females. These statistics highlight the pressing need for enhanced awareness, early detection and proactive preventive measures. Several lifestyle factors, including smoking, alcohol consumption, diets high in red and processed meats, low in fiber, and high in fat content, as well as obesity and a sedentary lifestyle, significantly contribute to a higher risk of colorectal cancer. Recognizing these risk factors is essential for making informed choices to safeguard colorectal health.

While colonoscopies stand out as the most sensitive tests for detecting polyps and cancers, there are non-invasive screening options available for patients without predisposing factors like a family history of colorectal cancer or colon polyps – Cologuard and virtual colonoscopy. Cologuard is a simple test that requires the patient to send in a sample of their stool that is then analyzed for DNA markers and blood in the stool. A virtual colonoscopy is a form of computed tomography (CT) scan to visualize the colon to detect abnormalities but does require similar bowel prep as a colonoscopy. These tests may be options for patients who are at low risk for colorectal cancers or patients who may not be able to undergo a colonoscopy due to age and comorbidities,” Sudhoff clarified.

Proper timing of screenings and the removal of polyps through colonoscopies play a crucial role in reducing the risk of developing colorectal cancer by up to 90 percent. “Colonoscopies, while they can be inconvenient for a short period of time, are very effective for detecting and preventing colon cancer. Specializing in colorectal surgery, I see daily the results of delayed colonoscopies and the impact it can have on patients and their families. I encourage anyone who is symptomatic or of proper screening age to have a colonoscopy and maintain recommended surveillance intervals. Subsequent care is just as important as initial screening in colon cancer prevention,” Sudhoff explained. Furthermore, advancements in bowel preparation options now include tablets instead of oral liquid, presenting a more convenient and tolerable approach. Many patients, in fact, only need to miss one day of work – the day of the procedure.

For more information or to make an appointment, call Blount Memorial Physicians Group – Surgery at 865-238-6430.

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