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Preventing Colon Cancer

Published in Cancer Care, Women's Services, Gastroenterology, Men's Health Author: Teri Larson-Johnson, PA-C, Radiation Oncology

It’s the third most common cancer in men and women and the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths. It’s also one of the most preventable forms of cancer. What is it? Colon and rectal cancer.

Colorectal cancer is a cancer that develops in the colon or the rectum. According to the American Cancer Society, risks factors for colorectal cancer include:

  • Diets high in red meat or processed meats, low in fiber or high in fat
  • Lack of exercise
  • Being overweight
  • Smoking
  • Heavy alcohol use
  • Age 50 years old or older
  • Family history of colorectal cancer
  • Race — African Americans are at highest risk, particularly men
  • Diabetes
  • HIV infection
  • Chronic inflammatory diseases of the colon, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease
  • Previous radiation therapy directed at cancers in the abdomen or pelvis

If you are 50 years old or if you have any of the above risk factors, you should start colon cancer screening. Screening options include visual exams or stool-based testing. Talk with your health care provider to decide which test is best for you.

Visual testing

Colonoscopy has the highest sensitivity for detecting colorectal cancer and adenomatous polyps (noncancerous polyps that can grow and become cancerous if not removed). A scope is used to look at the rectum and the entire length of the colon. During this procedure, cancerous or pre-cancerous lesions can be removed. Repeat screening is recommended every 10 years if your results are normal.

Flexible sigmoidoscopy is a scope used to look at the rectum but less than half of the colon can be seen. Repeat screening recommended every five years.

CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy) is a scan that rotates around you while you lie on a table and takes many X-ray images of your rectum and colon. Repeat screening recommended every five years.

Stool-based tests check for signs of cancer (hidden blood) in the stool (feces). Fecal immunochemical test (FIT) also called an immunochemical fecal occult blood test (iFOBT) and guaiac-based fecal occult blood test (gFOBT) are both stool-based tests.

Free test

During March, the Colon Cancer Awareness month, people who are age 50 or older can receive a free immunochemical fecal occult blood test (iFOBT) Take-Home Colon Screening kit from the drive-up window at CentraCare Pharmacy at St. Cloud Hospital or from Coborn Cancer Center and Coborn Healing Center, both located at CentraCare Plaza. Kits are limited and you must be present to pick up your kit. The iFOBT screening does not replace a colonoscopy, which is the best method to detect colorectal cancer.

Print and complete the consent form, and drop it off at the CentraCare Pharmacy at St. Cloud Hospital, Coborn Cancer Center or Coborn Healing Center to receive a free kit. Call 320-229-5199, ext. 70857, if you have questions.

Free Screening and Prevention Night

Coborn Cancer Center is offering a free screening and prevention night from 4-6 p.m. March 3 at Coborn Healing Center. Learn about cancer prevention from our health care professionals and registered dietitian, tour a giant colon, receive a free skin check, radon test kit and Take-Home Colon Cancer Screening kit.

To schedule your colonoscopy, please call CentraCare Digestive Center at 320-229-4916.