Colon Cancer Prevention

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Introduction to colon cancer prevention

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Cancer of the colon and the rectum (also known as colon cancer or colo-rectal cancer) is a malignant growth arising from the inner lining of the colon or rectum. Colo-rectal cancer is a major cause of cancer-related deaths among men and women in the United States.

The good news is that colo-rectal cancer is both curable and preventable if it is detected early and completely removed before the cancerous cells metastasize (spread) to other parts of the body. Colo-rectal cancer can be prevented by removing colo-rectal polyps before they grow and change into cancers, or by using natural substances or man-made chemicals to prevent the colo-rectal polyps from changing into cancer. (Using natural substances or chemicals to prevent cancer is called chemo-prevention).

Measures to prevent diseases usually fall into one of five categories of safety and effectiveness. These categories are:
  1. Measures that have scientifically-proven effectiveness and long-term safety
  2. Measures that probably are effective but may have long-term, adverse side effects
  3. Measures that probably are effective, and safe
  4. Measures that have been found to be ineffective
  5. Measures that have no scientific basis and no studies to measure effectiveness and safety

What measures to prevent colo-rectal cancer have proven effectiveness and long term safety?

Colonoscopy and flexible sigmoidoscopy (along with digital rectal examination and stool occult blood testing) are the primary and most important tools for both preventing colo-rectal cancers and detecting early colo-rectal cancers.

Most colo-rectal cancers arise from colo-rectal polyps (small growths on the inner lining of the colon and the rectum). Even though colo-rectal polyps are initially benign, they can grow and change into colo-rectal cancers over a period of time ranging from five to twenty years. A large study that was conducted in several research centers in the United States showed that patients who had their polyps removed (usually via colonoscopy) had a 90% decrease in colo-rectal cancer.

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Colon Cancer Screening And Surveillance

Screening recommendations for individuals with average risk of colon cancer

The life-time risk for an adult American to develop colorectal cancer is approximately 6%. Fecal occult blood tests and flexible sigmoidoscopic examinations are the recommended screening tests for these individuals at average risk for developing colorectal cancer.


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