According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States. However, according to Mark Pochapin, MD, the Sholtz/Leeds Professor of Gastroenterology and director of the Division of Gastroenterology at NYU Langone Medical Center: “With early screening and prevention, this is one cancer that is highly curable and often preventable.”
As March approaches, gastroenterologists at NYU Langone remind everyone of the importance of colon cancer screening and prevention.
When deciding if you should be screened for colorectal cancer, here are some tips:
- Men and women at average risk need to start getting screened at age 50. If you have certain risk factors—like a family history of colon polyps or cancer—you may need to start screening earlier. Talk with your doctor to determine the right time for you to begin screening.
- Often, pre-cancerous colon polyps and early colon cancers cause no symptoms, which is why getting screened before you have symptoms is so important. Many people overlook screening because they feel healthy—but screening can not only detect cancer early but also prevent cancer with the detection and removal of pre-cancerous polyps.
- There are a number of different screening options available, and you should discuss with your doctor the best method of screening for you. “When it comes to screening, a colonoscopy is the most comprehensive—allowing for examination of the entire colon and both the early detection and prevention of cancer—but the most important test is the test that gets done,” Dr. Pochapin says.
- A colonoscopy is a gold standard for screening because not only is it effective for the early detection of cancer, but it can also prevent cancers from developing by removing polyps. Other recommended screening options include take-home stool tests, such as the Fecal Immunochemical Test, (FIT); CT colonography; and flexible sigmoidoscopy. A new multi-targeted stool DNA test is also newly approved by the US Food and Drug Administration.
In addition to getting screened for colon cancer, Dr. Pochapin provides the following tips to use at any age to help minimize your risk of developing colorectal cancer.
- If you smoke, quit.
- Maintain an active lifestyle and healthy body weight.
- Eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables.
- Avoid an excess of red and processed meats.
- Drink alcohol in moderation only.
The bottom line? “If you’re age 50 or older, please call your doctor to schedule your colon cancer screening appointment,” Dr. Pochapin warns. “It could save your life.”
Learn more about colorectal cancer, screening and prevention, and make an appointment for your screening exam through our Colon Cancer Screening and Prevention Program.