Cancer of the colon and rectum remains the third top cancer killer in the United States, yet is one of the most preventable forms of cancer and is curable if detected early. In Louisiana, the rates of colon and rectal cancer are higher than the U.S. average, and while there has been a reduction nationally in the rates of colon cancer during the past decade, Louisiana lags behind in its rate of reduction.
Most cancers of the colon and rectum begin as pre-cancerous polyps, and early detection of these polyps saves lives and healthcare resources. This fact was confirmed in a study published in 2012 in the New England Journal of Medicine. In the study, a group of more than 2,600 patients who underwent a colonoscopy had pre-cancerous polyps removed were followed for 20 years. The study found a 53 percent reduction in colon cancer deaths among the patients when compared with the general population.
A colonoscopy, now considered to be a cancer prevention test, is recommended by the American College of Gastroenterology as the preferred method for colorectal cancer screening as it allows for the identification and removal of pre-cancerous polyps. The procedure is usually performed under sedation, which generally allows for a painless exam and little recollection of the procedure itself.
Average-risk individuals should start receiving an annual colonoscopy at 50, while those with a family history of colorectal cancer should begin getting the screening by 40. African-Americans should get a colonoscopy by 45. Medicare and most private insurers cover the screening as a health benefit.
Please take this opportunity to explore your options for colorectal cancer screening. It could save your life.