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Burien Digestive Health Wants You To Know About Colon Cancer Screening

BTB Advertiser Burien Digestive Health Center wants our Readers to know about colon cancer screening, so as we do with all our Advertisers, we’re allowing them a forum to share their information:

It is time for The Normandy Park Blog to talk about colon cancer screening, an important part of health screening. Many people out of concern over the process avoid this necessary and important test. This article should allay most of those concerns.

Generally a colonoscopy done by a gastroenterologist is recommended as the best approach to colorectal cancer screening. A colonoscopy is a test where a slender plastic tube with a camera on the end is inserted through the anus and advanced throughout the entire colon. This is done under sedation so it is almost always painless. Many people feel the preparation before hand is the worst part, but over the years these preparations have become quite a bit easier and well tolerated. While the process is not fun it has become relatively easy for the patient.

People tend to snicker at the whole idea of a colonoscopy. While a colonoscopy and the important information this simple test provides are critical to health maintenance, there is room for some humor. I want to share with you what some pretty clever patients have been known to say about this procedure. One man asked at the time of his colonoscopy for a note to give to his wife stating that, in fact, his head was not up there. Another patient once asked if his dignity could be found during the procedure. And a third commented, after having had a colonoscopy, that he now knew how a Muppet felt. All joking aside, the most important thing to remember is that colon cancer screening easily, painlessly, and effectively saves countless lives every year.

Colorectal cancer is a cancer that develops in the large intestine [colon] or rectum. The primary goal of colon cancer screening is to help identify colon polyps and cancers at an early and very treatable stage thereby preventing deaths from colon cancer.

All adults should undergo colon cancer screening beginning at age 50 or earlier. Someone’s individual risk factors for developing colorectal cancer, such as family history or life style, will help the physician determine at what age a patient should begin to have the procedure performed.

When the gastroenterologist performs the colon cancer screening tests he/she is looking for any abnormalities such as polyps or early stage cancers. Regular screening for and removal of polyps reduces your risk of developing colorectal cancer – by more than 90 percent. Nearly half of colon cancers are fatal if not detected early. During a colonoscopy a gastroenterologist may detect an early stage cancer already present in the colon and by doing so increase the chances of successful treatment and in turn decrease the chance of dying as a result of the cancer.

There are several factors that increase an individual’s risk of developing colorectal cancer and mandate earlier and more frequent screening.

Dr. C. Michael Kramer Jr. of Burien Digestive Health Center.

A positive family history of colorectal cancer is a common risk factor. If a close family member, a first or second-degree relative, has had colorectal cancer colorectal cancer this could increase your risk of colorectal cancer by as much as 30%.

Another very important and common risk factor is a personal history of colorectal cancer or polyps. People who have previously had colorectal cancer have a significantly increased risk of developing a new colorectal cancer or polyp.

Several lifestyle factors increase the risk of colorectal cancer, including:

  • A diet low in fiber and high in fat and meat.
  • A sedentary lifestyle.
  • Cigarette smoking.

There are several tests available for colorectal cancer screening. These include tests that can detect cancers at an early treatable stage and tests that can also detect pre-cancerous polyps (also called adenomas), which can lead to cancer prevention. Simply removing the polyp at the time of colonoscopy eliminates that polyp from ever becoming cancer.

Guidelines from expert groups recommend that the best options to consider for colorectal cancer screening are colonoscopy every 10 years or a flexible sigmoidoscopy with barium enema every 5 years. People with an average risk of colorectal cancer should begin screening at age 50.

People with a higher risk of colorectal cancer should begin screening at an earlier age. One of the following screening strategies is recommended:

  • People who have one first-degree relative (parent, brother, sister, or child) with colorectal cancer or adenomatous polyps at a young age (before the age of 60 years), or two first-degree relatives diagnosed at any age, should begin screening for colon cancer earlier, typically at age 40, or 10 years younger than the earliest diagnosis in their family, whichever comes first).
  • People who have one first-degree relative (parent, brother, sister, or child) who has experienced colorectal cancer or adenomatous polyps at age 60 or later should begin screening by colonoscopy at age 50, and screening should be repeated as for average risk people.
  • People who have known ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease or a genetically-based colon cancer syndromes in their family; such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer (HNPCC); require aggressive screening and preventive treatments that should be discussed with their gastroenterologist.

If you are of the right age or have risk factors please take the time to have colorectal screening done in a timely fashion.

Your healthcare provider or gastroenterologist is the best source of information for questions and concerns related to your gastrointestinal health.

Burien Digestive Health Center is located at Three Tree Medical Arts Building on the campus of Highline Medical Center in Burien, and can be reached by phone at (206) 242-1300, or at their website here.

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