The American Cancer Society estimates that 136,830 people will be diagnosed with colon cancer in 2014, and that 50,310 will die from it in the United States. That means that we have a one in 20 chance of developing colon cancer in our lifetime. It is the second-leading cause of cancer death in men and women.
Because there are so few reliable symptoms, early detection is important. Educating yourself about your health is one reason why South Bay Hospital provides free health seminars for residents.
Richard and Julie Hochfelder regularly attend health seminars in Sun City Center, especially those sponsored by South Bay Hospital.
“We don’t miss any, if we can help it,” Richard Hochfelder said last week, after he and his wife Julie attended the seminar on colorectal cancer prevention given by gastroenterologist Dr. Ashok Dhaduvai.
The Hochfelders are doing what many say they want to do but never seem to find the time or inclination. They get screened for colon cancer.
Dhaduvai says that the bottom line on who gets and who does not get colon cancer is often found in their family medical history. A person’s genetic makeup is a strong indicator of whether someone will get colon cancer. It is a gene defect, and once you have a family history of colon cancer, you have a higher risk, according to Dhaduvai. That is why making an appointment to get a colonoscopy can make a big difference in the outcome when fighting this particular cancer.
“The incident of colon cancer has come down because of screening,” says Dhaduvai.
It is the high incidence of polyps in the colon that puts someone at risk for colon cancer. Colon polyps are growths on the inner lining of the colon and are very common. They are important because they may become malignant, or cancerous.
It is thought that, based on their size, number and histology, a prediction can be made on which patients are more likely to develop further polyps and colon cancer.
It is all about the polyps. Dhaduvai’s comment is always: “Take out the polyps!”
According to Dhaduvai, no one knows what causes polyps to form inside the colon. And, he says, lifestyle or food choices do not seem to be a reason people get or don’t get polyps or colon cancer.
So when should you get a colonoscopy?
If there is no risk factor of colon cancer in a person’s family history, he or she can have a colonoscopy every 10 years starting at age 50.
With a risk factor, a person should have a colonoscopy every five years, unless that person has had colon cancer.
“In that case, first get one every other year and then every three years,” Dhaduvai said, “to be safe.”