Only You Can Prevent Colon Cancer

By Fay Kastrinos, MD, MPH Gastroenterologist NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center Assistant Professor in Clinical Medicine Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons Felice Schnoll-Sussman, MD, FACG, AGAF Acting Director, The Jay Monahan Center for Gastrointestinal Health NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine Weill Cornell Medical College

Posted on | By Fay Kastrinos, MD, MPH, Felice Schnoll-Sussman, MD, FACG, AGAF

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, colorectal cancer screening saves lives. If everyone 50 years old or older were screened regularly, as many as 60% of deaths from this cancer could be avoided.

It’s Time to Make That Call

March is National Colon Cancer Awareness Month and, as gastroenterologists, we are too keenly aware of the toll of colon and rectal cancers on individuals and families. This month, we join with our colleagues at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and around the country in the Make That Call campaign to get the message out – colon cancer is preventable. If you are 50 or older, male or female, we urge you to schedule your screening colonoscopy.

So, what are you waiting for? Make that call today – it could save your life.

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If you’re thinking about getting a colonoscopy, but just haven’t gotten around to making that call, consider this:

  • Colorectal cancer is very preventable.
  • Colorectal cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in non-smokers.
  • Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in the United States.
  • After the age of 50, the risk for colon cancer increases.
  • Colorectal cancer strikes men and women equally, though women may be less inclined to get screened. This may be related to being busy caring for their family and loved ones, at times ignoring their own preventive care.
  • You could have colon cancer and not even know it. This is why screening – before symptoms occur – is essential.
  • Colonoscopies save lives by finding early cancer at a more treatable stage or abnormal growths that can be removed before they turn into cancer.

As the population ages – beginning about the age of 50 – the risk of colon cancer increases. This is why we recommend that men and women who are without symptoms and have no family history of colon cancer have their first screening at this age.

The risk increases if there is a family history of colon cancer and/or colon polyps, or inherited polyposis syndromes, such as Lynch syndrome – also known as Hereditary Non-Polyposis Colorectal Cancer (HNPCC), or Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (FAP). In these situations, screening should begin much earlier and is performed much more frequently. Inflammatory bowel disease, such as Ulcerative Colitis (UC) and Crohn’s colitis, can also increase the risk.

Lifestyle factors may contribute to some degree of risk, as colorectal polyps and cancer can be associated with smoking, and a diet high in fat and calories and low in fiber.


The Colonoscopy: What’s All the Fuss About?

There are many misconceptions about colonoscopies relating to the preparation, the process, discomfort, and embarrassment. As we’ve learned from so many of our patients, before they had their first colonoscopy screening, they weren’t thinking that they might have cancer; they were more concerned about the procedure itself. However, we’ve also seen that those who have undergone a colonoscopy often become its best advocates.

Article written by Fay Kastrinos, MD, MPH
GastroenterologistNewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical CenterAssistant Professor in Clinical...

Article written by Felice Schnoll-Sussman, MD, FACG, AGAF
Acting Director, The Jay Monahan Center for Gastrointestinal HealthNewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical...