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Modern technology makes screening for colorectal cancer much easier and, when detected early, it is a very treatable disease.
Your risk of developing colorectal cancer is a combination of controllable and uncontrollable factors. People older than 50 as well as those who have a family history of colorectal, ovarian, or breast cancer have a higher risk of developing colorectal cancer than others.
Colorectal cancer is highly preventable, even curable, when detected early. Regular screening for colorectal cancer detects polyps before they become cancerous. Everyone should begin colorectal cancer screening by age 50 and screenings should be done every five to ten years to detect and remove any pre-cancerous polyps.
The American College of Gastroenterology recommends that African Americans begin routine screening at age 45. If you have a personal or family history of colon polyps or colorectal cancer, talk to your doctor about early screening.
If screening indicates the possibility of cancer, additional tests will be conducted. Check with your physician to see if it's time to schedule your next screening.
Need help getting to your next appointment? Learn more about Northside Hospital's Colorectal Cancer Transportation Assistance Program.
A colonoscopy allows your doctor to examine the colon, the lining of your large intestine, for abnormalities by inserting a colonoscope into your anus, slowly advancing into the rectum and colon. The colonoscope allows your doctor to view images on a video monitor.
When other endoscopic procedures fail to diagnose lesions or when cancers in the digestive tract need to be staged, physicians can use EUS to examine the lining of your esophageal and stomach as well as the walls of your upper and lower gastrointestinal tract. EUS is a specially designed endoscope equipped with an ultrasound probe and camera attached to its tip. Because the ultrasound is able to get closer to the area to be examined, the pictures produced are clearer and more accurate.
ERCP combines endoscopy and fluoroscopy to identify, biopsy and treat a range of conditions in the pancreas or bile ducts, such as stones, obstructions, strictures, cancers, leaks, pancreatitis and undiagnosed upper-abdominal pain. During ERCP, your doctor will pass an endoscope through your mouth, esophagus and stomach to get to the duodenum. After your doctor sees the common opening to the ducts from the liver and pancreas, a catheter will pass into the ducts. Your doctor will inject a contrast material into the pancreatic or biliary ducts to take X-rays. It's an outpatient procedure that typically takes less than 60 minutes.
A newer procedure called SpyGlass Direct Visualization technology is being used at Northside's Advanced Center for GI Therapeutics to provide endoscopists with superior visualization of the biliary and pancreatic ducts. This improved visualization enhances biopsy yield because tissue acquisition is directed, as opposed to a blind biopsy. The technology is essentially a scope-in-a-scope; the SpyGlass attaches to the duodenoscope used during an ERCP and is then threaded through the endoscope and into the accessed bile duct. This equipment incorporates dedicated irrigation channels, a four-directional catheter tip directed by the operator, and biopsy forceps.
Northside Hospital’s Hereditary Cancer Program offers one of the most accurate tests available for identifying the genetic mutations that cause colorectal cancer. A certified genetic counselor will help determine the risk of cancer for you and your family. The program offers genetic counseling sessions, pre and post-testing counseling and genetic testing.
Approximately 5-10 percent of all colorectal cancer cases are inherited. A personal or family history of colorectal cancer and endometrial cancer is an indicator of the most common form of hereditary colon cancer, Hereditary Nonpolyposis Colorectal Cancer (HNPCC), and is responsible for 3-5 percent of all colorectal cancers. HNPCC is associated with an 80 percent lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer, as well as an increased risk of developing other cancers such as endometrial, ovarian and gastric.
If you have a personal or family history of endometrial cancer, colorectal cancer or polyps, talk to your doctor about an evaluation and risk assessment with a genetic counselor. Knowing that you have HNPCC can help determine you and your family’s risk for developing colorectal cancer and can assist your doctor in appropriate screening measures.
For more information, call (404) 851-6284.
Adhering to a healthy low-fat diet with plenty of fiber and at least five servings of fruits and veggies each day can dramatically reduce your risk of developing colorectal cancer. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, as well as foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids (such as salmon and halibut), folate (such as whole grains and leafy green vegetables), and calcium (such as sea vegetables and kale). Limit red and processed meats.
Manage your vices. Smoking and drinking radically contribute to your risk of developing colorectal cancer. People who consume more than 7 alcoholic beverages a week have a 72 percent increased risk, whereas long-term smokers have up to a 164 percent increased risk.
Keep your weight in check. Obese people (those with a BMI over 29) have a 20 percent increased risk of developing colorectal cancer compared to those of normal weight. Maintain a proper weight and exercise regularly. Even small amounts of exercise on a regular basis are protective. Aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity five days a week.