A new study released by the National Cancer Institute shows colon and rectal cancers have increased dramatically and steadily in young and middle-age adults in the United States over the past four decades. Dr. Yixing Jiang, a Medical Oncologist at the University of Maryland Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center, answers all the questions you’re now asking yourself about colon cancer.
Q. What are the risk factors for colon cancer?
A. The risks for developing colon cancer are: obesity; insulin resistance diabetes, red and processed meat; tobacco; alcohol; family history of colorectal cancer; certain hereditary syndromes (such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP)); certain genetic mutations (APC mutation); inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease); being a patient long-term immune suppression (transplant patients) and a history of abdominal radiation.
Q. Who had always been traditionally has always been at risk for colon cancer?
A. Most colorectal cancer happens sporadically. But patients with familial syndromes (FAP or Lynch syndrome), inflammatory bowel disease, certain genetic mutations, a family history of colon cancer or a history of polyos are at higher risk of developing colon cancer.
Q. What’s the best way to protect myself against colon cancer?
A. To reduce the risk of colon cancer, exercise regularly; eat less red meat, eand eat a diet high in fresh vegetables, fruits, fibers, vitamin D, and omega 3 fatty acids. Asprin and NSAIDs been shown a degree of protection against colon cancer. Of course, the best way of preventing colon cancer is screening with a colonoscopy.
Q. What’s the best screening tool for colon cancer?
A. The screening guidelines varies depending on the recommending agencies. For example, the Center for Disease Control recommends the following: For average general population, the recommendation is to start screening colonoscopy every 10 years at age of 50; fecal occult blood test annually and flex sigmoidoscopy every 3 years. The US Preventive Services Task Force recommends screening between the ages of 50 and 75.
The most used screening test for colon cancer is a colonoscopy.
Q. Is colon cancer treatable? What’s the best treatment options?
A. Colon cancer is a very treatable disease if discovered early. For stage I cancer, surgery cures more than 90% of patients. For patients with a more advanced stage cancer, surgery alone is usually not enough. Additional chemotherapy is generally required to increase the chance of a cure. Today, with more therapies available and better surgical techniques, we are able to cure close to 30% patients with stage IV disease.
For more information on diagnosing and treating colon cancer, please visit UMGCCC’s website, umgccc.org.