My sympathies go out to Tony Snow and his family for the latest news about his colon cancer recurrence. In 2005, Snow wasdiagnosed with Stage 3 colon cancer, had his colon removed andunderwent six months of chemotherapy. Now a second cancer has been removed, and reports say it has metastasized to his lever.
Cancer news is never good news. Snow’s news, however, is an unfortunate reminder of my “prevent colon cancer, screen screen screen!” message. (I say this to all my friends when they turn 50.)
Colon cancer is the third cancer killer in the U.S.
But, it is the most preventable cancer: if caught in the early stage, it’s 90% treatable.
The way to catch colon cancer early is to screen for it: by the time someone’s showing symptoms, it’s usually progressed
The American Cancer Society and other medical organizations have recommended the following guidelines for general colorectal cancer screening:
All Men and Women Aged 50 or Older—Everyone aged 50 years or older should be tested routinely. At least 75 percent (3 out of 4) of colorectal cancers occur in people with no family or personal history and no known risk factors that would place them at high risk.
People at Increased Risk—People at increased risk may need to begin screening earlier and more often than people at average risk. Family and personal history should be considered when determining their screening schedules. People considered at high risk are:
People with a personal or family history of colorectal cancer or polyps
People who have had inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease)
People with genetic syndromes (familial adenomatous polyposis or hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer)
Regular screening can catch colorectal cancer early, when it is most treatable. Regular screening can save lives.
How do you screen? Colonoscopy is the gold standard. Many people don’t relish this thought. There are other methods - including a stool DNA test (yes, that’s the gene connection in this post). My company’s website has a comparison chart for different screening methods.
Read more: previous posts on colon cancer screening, stool dna testing and the like
Update 3/30: Time magazine echoes the “screen, screen, screen” message.
The best way to manage colon cancer, however, is to prevent it from getting too far. … When caught early, [Dr. Raymond DuBois, incoming provost of MD Anderson Cancer Center and a colon cancer specialist] notes, malignant growths still contained in the intestine can be removed with surgery, and 50% of patients are cured this way. About 30% of colon cancer patients, however, are diagnosed with the disease after it has progressed to more advanced stages, and spread to other organs such as the liver. “The one important message for everyone is that you don’t have to go through what Tony Snow is [going through],” says DuBois.