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Colon Cancer Screening Guidelines – In Honor of a Friend’s Mom and Family

Submitted by jrlaw on Aug 20th, 2009

Monday was not a good day. In fact, it will be a day my friend will never forget.  His mom was diagnosed with colon cancer – a Stage IV cancer that had metastasized to his mother’s liver, lungs, and lower part of her spine.  Further, because of the multiple masses and the manner in which the cancer spread, his mom is not a surgical candidate for any tumor resection. She will likely undergo “aggressive chemotherapy” and radiation treatments.

We must keep my friend’s mother in our thoughts and prayers – and must honor my friend and his family by encouraging colon cancer awareness and preventative screening.

Yes, certain tests for screening for colon cancer are more invasive than others.  But, the American Cancer Society (“ASC”) states in its publication that Prevention - the Focus of New Colon Cancer Screening Guidelines that there is a higher likelihood of identifying some types of cancer when a patient undergoes more invasive screening techniques.  Such screening tests can help physicians find polyps before they become cancerous and provide life saving treatment.

Ninety percent (90%) of the people whose colon cancer is detected before it has spread to lymph nodes or other organs survive five (5) years after diagnosis.  Yet, alarmingly, only ten percent (10 percent) of all patients whose cancer has spread to other parts of the body may survive five (5) years.

The ASC Guidelines focus on adults fifty (50) years of age or older who have an average risk for colon cancer.  The new Guidelines list 4 screening/testing options that may be likely to find both polyps and cancer:

  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 years 
  • Colonoscopy every 10 years 
  • Double contrast barium enema every 5 years 
  • CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy) every 5 years

    Individuals who have a higher propensity associated with colon cancer need to follow a much more intensive screening process.  The high risk group includes all individuals over the fifty (50) or those with a family or personal history of polyps, ulcers or colon cancer.

    I encourage you and your family members to get regular check-ups with your family physician.  Be aware of potential signs and/or symptoms that may be related to colon cancer: change in bowel habits, blood in the stool, frequent gas pains and/or cramps, vomiting and narrower stools than usual.  Consult a doctor immediately if you or a family member is concerned about any of these signs.

    Colon cancer will kill an estimated 57,000 people this year and will strike one (1) in ten (10) couples during their lifetime according to the American College of Gastroenterology.  Don’t wait before it’s too late to get a colonoscopy.  Start making plans now for a colon screening.

    The following important resources can assist you with colon cancer questions and issues:
    Colon Cancer Alliance - News stories and support groups for individuals with colon cancer.
    National Cancer institute - Online booklet about colon cancer and links to cancer definitions.
    The American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons  - Resource of surgeons dedicated to the cure and treatment of colon cancer. Colon Cancer News  - News and books recommended on Colon Cancer.