Category Archives: Colon Cancer

What keeps people from lifesaving colon cancer testing?

By Richard Wender, MD

We have made amazing progress in reducing colon cancer death rates. This progress is a direct result of increasing screening for colon cancer and pre-cancerous polyps. We are actually preventing thousands of cancers by finding and removing pre-cancerous polyps. The nation has embraced the goal of increasing national screening rates to 80% by the end of 2018 – an achievement that will substantially reduce the terrible toll that colon cancer exacts every year.  Everyone is at risk for colon cancer, whether or not someone in your family has ever had a colon polyp or colon cancer. For that reason, everyone has to start being screened for colon cancer at age 50, and people with inflammatory bowel disease or a family history of colon cancer or polyps have to start before they reach age 50. Colon cancer screening is one of the best opportunities to prevent cancer that we’ve ever discovered.

Despite this compelling reason to be screened, many people either have never had a colon cancer screening test or are not up-to-date with screening. Interestingly, nearly all of these unscreened people know that they should be screened, In fact, awareness about colon cancer screening recommendations approaches 100%.… Continue reading →

A national effort to help end colon cancer

By Richard C. Wender, MD

About a year ago, U.S. Assistant Secretary for Health Howard Koh, MD, invited a small group of people to his office to discuss the opportunity for the nation to start a full court press to end colorectal (colon) cancer as a major public health problem in the United States. The meeting idea came from a conversation on his back porch with his college friend Ron Vender, MD, who had just been elected President of the American College of Gastroenterology (ACG). Howard asked Ron how he could most effectively work with the ACG and, together, they decided that it was the right time to tackle colon cancer in a big way.

Dr. Koh invited leaders of the organizations that were at the center of public health efforts to increase colon cancer screening rates to attend the meeting. Screening is looking for cancer in people who have no symptoms of the disease. In the case of colon cancer, screening can find the disease at an early, more treatable stage, and it can also prevent it altogether. This is because colon cancer screening tests often find polyps, which can then be removed before they have a chance to become cancerous.… Continue reading →

Does being obese cause colon cancer?

By Durado Brooks, MD, MPH

Suppose that, during your next doctor’s visit, you look at your medical record and your doctor has written “53- year-old diabetic white female, here today for a check-up.” Would you be bothered by that description? Probably not. Your doctor is just discussing your medical condition, right? But what if, instead of “diabetic” the note read “53-year-old obese white female?” How would you feel now? Hurt? Angry? Sad? Would you think, “Why is my doctor being so mean?”

For many, the term “obese” brings to mind a massively overweight individual (like “Fat Albert” in the old Saturday morning cartoons). In reality most obese people don’t look like Albert.

Obesity is a medical term

Obesity is actually a precise medical term that is based on a measure of body fat called the Body Mass Index (BMI). The BMI is calculated from a person’s height and weight. In general, a higher BMI indicates a higher amount of body fat. Adults with a BMI between 18 and 25 are in the “healthy” body fat/weight category. People with a BMI between 25 and 30 are considered overweight, and a BMI greater than 30 signifies obesity. Many people who view themselves as having a “normal weight” (or at most “pleasingly plump”) are shocked when they do this calculation and realize that 180 pounds on their 5 feet 6 inch frame means they are medically obese.  

Our obsession with body image creates an emotional context for obesity that doesn’t exist for most other medical issues.… Continue reading →

Mom, Dad, Let’s Talk about Colon Cancer

By Durado Brooks, MD

 

How often do you think a family conversation about cancer occurs? The truth is, not nearly often enough.

Colorectal cancer (often called simply “colon cancer”) is cancer that develops in the colon or the rectum, and it’s the third most common cancer in the U.S.  While most people diagnosed with colon cancer do not have a family history the disease, people who have this cancer in their family have a significantly higher chance of being diagnosed.  The good news is that colon cancer is one of the most preventable cancers, and this prevention can work even for people who are at high risk of the disease. [more]

Colon cancer is preventable because it usually starts as a non-cancerous growth called a polyp.  Not all polyps will progress to cancer, but for those that do the transformation usually takes a number of years.  Cancer can be prevented by finding and removing these polyps with colon cancer screening tests during this transition period.   

People who have a history of colon cancer or polyps in a close family member (parent, sibling, or child) may have twice the risk of developing the disease compared to those with no family history.  This is especially true if cancer appears in the relative before age 60.  If there are multiple family members with colon cancer, the risk may be even higher. 

Polyp detection and removal is best accomplished by regular screening – recommended to start at age 50 for people at average risk for developing colon cancer.  However, screening recommendations may be quite different for those with an affected relative.… Continue reading →

Hot dog! Headlines Can Be Deceiving.

By Colleen Doyle, MS, RD

Did you hear the one about the hot dog and the rotisserie chicken? Recent news reports suggest that, at least when it comes to cancer, the hot dog may be the better choice.

But don’t reach for the mustard and relish just yet.

Researchers at Kansas State University, with funding in part from the American Meat Institute and the National Pork Board Check-off, tested the heterocyclic amine (HCA) levels of a variety of popular ready-to-eat meat products: hot dogs, deli meats, bacon, pepperoni and rotisserie chicken. HCAs are chemicals that are formed in meats when they are cooked at very high temperatures. Studies show that these chemicals can damage DNA and cause cancer in animals. It’s not clear how much they may contribute to cancer risk in people. Even so, the American Cancer Society recommends cooking meats with methods that create fewer HCAs, such as baking or poaching.

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The hot dog study results, published in Meat Science, the journal of the American Meat Science Association (who knew?), found that pepperoni had the lowest levels of HCAs, followed by hot dogs and deli meat. Bacon and rotisserie chicken came next. And then came the headlines: “Good News for Meat Lovers: Most Ready-to-Eat Meat Products Contain Very Few Cancerous Compounds,” and “Hot Dogs for Better Health?… Continue reading →

Is Cancer Screening Going to the Dogs?

By Ted Gansler, MD, MBA

There’s been a lot of news lately about cancer-sniffing dogs after a new study by Japanese researcher Hideto Sonoda and his colleagues was published in the medical journal Gut. So we couldn’t help but wonder, is that possible?

 

If you haven’t heard about it, the recent study suggests that specially-trained dogs can identify the scent of volatile chemicals (those that evaporate into the air at room temperature) present in colon cancer. [more]

 

In the study, a Labrador sniffed breath samples and stool samples from patients who were known to have colon cancer, which had been identified by colonoscopy and biopsy. The dog correctly recognized cancer-related scents in 91% of the breath samples and 97% of the stool samples. And amazingly, when the dog was allowed to sniff breath and stool samples from patients who didn’t have colon cancer, the dog incorrectly “diagnosed” only 1% as malignant. This study adds to a small number of other published articles showing similar results for bladder, lung, and breast cancers, and to a recent conference presentation regarding prostate cancer.

 

In addition to these experimental studies, there have been several anecdotal reports of patients whose pet dogs seemed attracted to or upset by skin and breast cancers.… Continue reading →

Never Tested for Colon Cancer? What’s YOUR Excuse?

By Durado Brooks, MD, MPH

Embarrassing!  Painful!  Disgusting!!

 

These are some of the words that come to mind for lots of folks when they think about getting tested for colorectal cancer. Let’s face it – this involves a part of the body and bodily functions that people don’t talk about in polite conversation. Hopefully I can convince you that they (and you) need to get past this attitude and get on with testing.

Cancers of the colon and the rectum (the last sections of the digestive system) are extremely common.  In fact, they’re the third most common cancer in US men and women. The good news is the rates of this disease have been falling steadily over the past 20 years, and a big part of the decrease is directly related to testing for colorectal cancer.  You see, not only can testing help find the disease early, when it’s highly treatable, but testing can actually help to prevent the disease! That’s because most colorectal cancers start as a small, non-cancerous growth called a polyp. Finding and removing these polyps stops cancer before it starts. 

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You’d think that with these proven benefits people would be lining up to get tested – yet 4 out of every 10 adults who should get tested are missing out on this possibly life-saving opportunity.… Continue reading →