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Screenings may be the best way to reduce colon cancer risk

Category: Colon

When it comes to cancer, early detection is key, a fact that underscores the need for regular blood tests and lab tests. Catching cancer early saves lives, especially since many forms of cancer are treatable in their early stages. Recently, researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania confirmed what most medical professionals already believe - colonoscopy screenings significantly reduce an individual's risk of developing end-stage colorectal cancer.

The scientists stated that in the past few years, the colonoscopy has been replacing the sigmoidoscopy, which was a procedure used to detect abnormalities in the rectum and left side of the colon, even though many people questioned the efficacy and high cost of a colonoscopy. Now, researchers are stating that colonoscopy screening does, indeed, help save people from dying of colon cancer.

A serious issue
According to Chyke Doubeni, M.D., presidential associate professor of Family Medicine and Community Health at Penn Medicine, and lead author on the study, colorectal cancer caused over 50,000 deaths in the U.S. in 2012 and the only way to prevent it is thorough screening, early detection and treatment. The researcher explained that the main goal of this particular study was to discover the extent to which a colonoscopy can help prevent the people from getting diagnosed with advanced stage colon cancer, which is the deadliest form.

"Screening colonoscopy is used to look for early growths which may turn into cancer by allowing physicians to see any polyps or bleeding in the colon or rectum," explained Michael Kochman, M.D., Wilmott Family Professor of Medicine and co-director of the Gastrointestinal Oncology Program at Penn Medicine. "If any abnormalities - such as polyps - are detected, the physician can remove all or part of them with biopsy techniques during the procedure, making it a very effective means of spotting and removing potentially cancerous growths."

To determine the effectiveness of colonoscopy, researchers examined data from four U.S. managed care organizations that are part of the HMO cancer research network. They discovered that out of the 474 patients who had advanced colorectal cancer, more than half of them had tumors in the right side of their colon, which a sigmoidoscopy would not have been able to detect. These findings suggest that colonoscopies would have been more effective at catching these malignancies.

What are other prevention methods?
Along with getting screened for colon cancer regularly, what else can people do to help lower their risk of developing this disease? According to the Mayo Clinic, one way to avoid colon cancer is to eat plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, which often contain vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, all of which may help prevent cancer. Also, people should be sure to drink alcohol in moderation, or avoid it completely, since consuming too much alcohol has been shown raise cancer risk.

Maintaining a healthy weight is also key if people want to avoid colon cancer, which isn't always an easy thing to do. However, exercising moderately can help considerably with weight management. Individuals should talk to their doctors to learn more about how they can reduce their risk of developing this serious disease. Remember, blood tests and lab tests can go a long way in detecting not just colon cancer, but various diseases in early stages when there is a greater chance that it can be treated and go into remission.

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