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More Colorectal Cancer Screenings Needed

CancerWise - March 2008

By Deborah Aranda

Colorectal cancer is one of the most successfully treated cancers when caught early, having a 90% five-year survival rate. And yet, colorectal cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in America.

Lack of screenings is the main reason, M. D. Anderson experts say. The disease often has no early symptoms, and without screenings it can go undetected until it reaches advanced stages, when treatment options are limited.

In fact, only 39% of colorectal cancers are detected in early stages, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS).

During March, National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, M. D. Anderson and other organizations around the country take the opportunity to remind the public about colorectal cancer and the need to get screened.

Colonoscopy is preferred screening at M. D. Anderson

There are several different colorectal cancer screening methods, but
M. D. Anderson recommends a colonoscopy, says Therese Bevers, M.D., medical director of the Cancer Prevention Center at M. D. Anderson.

During a colonoscopy, a patient is sedated, and then a lighted scope is inserted into the colon and rectum to check for areas of abnormality. A colonoscopy also can detect polyps, which are growths that protrude from the lining of the colon or rectum that can sometimes become cancerous.

“Polyps are simply an overgrowth of the normal colon tissue," Bevers says. "They may be completely benign, while other polyps may get large and become pre-malignant. That's why, here at M. D. Anderson, we prefer a colonoscopy. If everything is negative, then people don’t have to have another colonoscopy for ten years.”

When should screenings begin?

Men and women of average risk should begin colorectal screenings at age 50, and people with a higher risk should ask their doctor about more aggressive screening, Bevers says.

"If a person has risk factors for colon cancer, such as a personal or family history of colon cancer or colon polyps or a history of inflammatory bowel disease, he or she may need to start screening earlier or have it more frequently," she says.

Ask your physician for more information regarding screenings for colorectal cancer. M. D. Anderson also provides screenings. To make an appointment at the Cancer Prevention Center, call 713-745-8040.

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© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center