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Colorectal Cancer Screening

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S., but it can be prevented.

About 150,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with colorectal cancer each year, and nearly 50,000 will die from it.  But it can be prevented through early screening and treatment, says Dr. Russell Yang, professor and chief of gastroenterology at SIU School of Medicine in Springfield.

SOUND BITE:   “You can have X-Ray studies.  You can have C-T scans, but the most important is to have what is called optical colonoscopy.  Scopy means to look and colonoscopy is to examine the colon.   And we know it is best to examine every inch of the colon for polyps  And if we see polyps, we remove them, and therefore, we prevent cancer.”

Dr. Yang says screening for colorectal cancer is recommended for an individual to begin at age 50 if there is no family history of the disease.  If there is a family history, or if you are African-American, screening should start earlier – at age 40 or 45.  He explains some other risk factors for colon cancer.

SOUND BITE:  “If you have a family history, or you yourself have a prior history of colon polyps, then that puts you at risk for colon cancer.  If you have some chronic inflammatory condition such as inflammatory bowel disease and two types most commonly seen are ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, then you are at risk for colon cancer.”

Dr. Yang says some basic steps people can take to decrease their risk of getting colon cancer are to stop smoking and eat a diet that’s low in fat and high in fiber with lots of fruits and vegetables.  He also suggests taking a baby aspirin, if your doctor agrees.  To schedule a colon cancer screening, individuals should check with their primary care physician.

This is Ruth Slottag, SIU School of Medicine in Springfield.