Colon Cancer Prevention

  • Medical Author:
    Dennis Lee, MD

    Dr. Lee was born in Shanghai, China, and received his college and medical training in the United States. He is fluent in English and three Chinese dialects. He graduated with chemistry departmental honors from Harvey Mudd College. He was appointed president of AOA society at UCLA School of Medicine. He underwent internal medicine residency and gastroenterology fellowship training at Cedars Sinai Medical Center.

  • Medical Editor: Jay W. Marks, MD
    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD, is a board-certified internist and gastroenterologist. He graduated from Yale University School of Medicine and trained in internal medicine and gastroenterology at UCLA/Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

  • Medical Editor: Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

Quick GuideColon Cancer: Symptoms, Signs, Screening, Stages

Colon Cancer: Symptoms, Signs, Screening, Stages

Introduction to colon cancer prevention

Cancer of the colon and the rectum (also known as colon cancer or colorectal cancer) is a malignant growth arising from the inner lining of the colon or rectum. Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer for both sexes in the United States. The American Cancer Society in their 2016 Cancer Facts and Figures report estimates that more than 134,000 cases will be diagnosed in 2016 and nearly 50,000 deaths due to colorectal cancer will occur in 2016.

Colorectal cancer is a major cause of cancer-related deaths among men and women in the United States.

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

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 or unsafe
  5. Measures that have no scientific basis and no studies to measure effectiveness and safety

On August 11, 2014, the FDA approved a new test for home use called Cologuard to screen for hemoglobin and abnormal (precancerous and cancerous) cells by detecting their abnormal DNA fragments. The test was proved safe and effective in a large clinical trial.

When should colon cancer screening begin?

Screening for colorectal cancer is one of the best ways to prevent the disease. Most screening has been done in the recent past by the invasive technique of colonoscopy. Colon cancer screening tests and procedures look for pre-cancerous or cancer cells in people who have no symptoms of disease.

Some screening procedures and tests may vary depending on a person's risk factor for colorectal cancer.

The new FDA-approved test, Cologuard, is not invasive, less expensive and much easier to accomplish than colonoscopy but it is not a treatment procedure. However, colonoscopy can both screen for precancerous and cancerous conditions and treat many of those (by removing the suspected tissue) during a single invasive procedure.

Adults who have no risk factors for colon cancer should begin colon screening at the age of 50.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/23/2016

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