Those in the know about colorectal cancer are trying to increase the awareness of screening and prevention of colon and rectal cancer. One reason is that 90% of these cancers can be cured if detected early. Another reason is that regular screening can detect polyps in the colon before they turn into cancer. Because of this, screening for colon cancer is the best form of prevention.
Screening is the testing of a person for a disease who does not have symptoms. Screening tests that find colon and rectal cancers early and decrease the chance of dying are:
- Fecal occult blood test (FOBT)-stool specimens to look for hidden blood
- Fecal immunochemical test (FIT)-a stool specimen looking for blood
- Double contrast barium enema-an x-ray to look at the colon
- Sigmoidoscopy and colonoscopy-exams that look at the inside of the colon
Newer tests, which are still under study include:
- Virtual colonoscopy-uses x-rays and computers to make images of the colon. Laxatives are needed to clear out the bowel the day before the test.
- DNA tests-a test that checks DNA in stool cells for genetic changes that may be a sign of colorectal cancer.
The National Cancer Institute has studied risk factors for colorectal cancer that may affect cancer risk. Their studies show colorectal cancer risk may be affected by the following:
- Vitamin D: Studies show that taking 1,000 IU of vitamin D daily may cut the risk of colorectal cancer in half.
- Folic acid: High doses of folic acid may help decrease colorectal cancer risk.
- Physical activity: A lack of physical activity, especially combined with a diet high in fat, may increase colorectal cancer risk.
- Obesity: In women before the change of life, obesity has been linked to an increased risk of colorectal cancer.
- Smoking: Cigarette smoking has been linked to increased colorectal cancer risk.
- Alcohol: Drinking alcohol may increase colorectal cancer risk.
- Polyp removal: Studies have shown that removing polyps decreases the risk of colorectal cancer.
- Female hormone use-studies show that using female hormones after change of life lowers the risk of colorectal cancer. But the use of female hormones increases the risk of breast cancer.
- Age: 90% of colon cancers are seen in people over age 50.
- Family history: People with one first degree relative (parent or brother/sister) with colorectal cancer have 2-3 times the risk of an average person.
Be like the people in the know about colorectal cancer-talk to your doctor about screening for colorectal cancer.
For more information about any cancer concern, contact:
Cancer Information Service
Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center
UI Hospitals and Clinics
200 Hawkins Drive, 4802 JPP
Iowa City, Iowa 52242