Colonoscopies Save Lives

Colonscopies Save Lives

Colonoscopies Save Lives

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Colorectal cancer refers to both colon and rectal cancer. Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer, excluding skin cancer, diagnosed in men and women in the United States. Symptoms don’t always occur in colorectal cancer, so regular screening through colonoscopies is critical in early detection. Colonoscopies save lives.

Why are screening colonoscopies important?

The number of colorectal cancer cases in the United States has been decreasing. Incidence rates dropped by about 2% each year in adults aged 50 and older from 2014 to 2018. This decrease is primarily due to increased screening with colonoscopies. However, incidence rates rose by 1.5% each year in adults younger than 50. ( Screening colonoscopies can help find colorectal changes before they become cancerous and allow the removal of cancers while they are in an earlier stage. ( The death rates are decreasing due to improvements in treatment and increased screening. 

Who should get a colonoscopy and why?

As you age, so does the risk of colon cancer. People over 50 are at a higher risk of developing colon cancers. However, there is an increasing incidence of colorectal cancers in younger adults. Higher rates of colon cancer exist with black people, so it is recommended they begin screening at age 45. People with inflammatory bowel disease are at a higher risk of developing colon cancer and should have a screening colonoscopy at an earlier age. Early screening should also happen if a family history of colon cancer exists. Those who have had colonoscopies and have had certain polyps removed are also at higher risk of developing colon cancer and should have follow-up screening regularly.

Other risk factors that can increase the risk for colon cancer include physical inactivity and obesity, and tobacco abuse. Research has shown a link between red meat and processed meat and a higher risk of disease. ( Therefore, a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and low in red meat and processed meat paired with regular exercise can be critical preventive measures.

Survival rates and early detection with colonoscopies

The stages used to determine the five-year survival rate of colon cancer are localized, regional, and distant. Between 2011-2017 the 5-year survival rate was 91% for localized, 72% for regional, and 14% for distant disease. (American Cancer Society) Therefore, early detection impacts the survival rate and is an important reason to talk with your doctor about colon cancer screening.

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