Get Screened to Decrease Your Risk
By Dr. Scott Breidbart, Chief Clinical Officer, EmblemHealth
Colon cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. and is preventable for many average-risk patients through colorectal screenings. Individuals who are at an average risk of developing colon cancer, which means no family history of the disease or previous abnormalities, should schedule a colonoscopy, sigmoidoscopy or stool sampling at age 50. Those with a higher risk should consult with their physician to determine the best screening options.
We often hear the most about colonoscopies because it’s the least pleasant of screening methods, but most effective. This screening method not only detects cancer and precancerous cells, but can remove adenomas — colorectal polyps — if found.
The other screening methods, sigmoidoscopy and stool sampling, are also effective ways to screen. However, both exams must occur on a more frequent basis and may not be able to detect polyps. While these methods are as effective as a colonoscopy in reducing colon cancer mortality, they are not as effective at reducing cases of colon cancer.
Regardless of screening method, it’s important that people over the age of 50 simply get screened. Studies have shown that in addition to screenings, regular exercise, healthy diet, abstaining from smoking and avoiding alcohol will also reduce the risk of developing colon cancer and abnormal polyps.
At EmblemHealth, we’re constantly working on ways to communicate and implement strategies with physicians to address the importance of screening to patients. For example, the phrase “colon cancer screening” makes a greater impact and resonates more with patients than “colonoscopy.”
To reduce the amount of colon cancer deaths, we must continue to increase our health education efforts and stress the importance of proper screening as a preventive tool.
To learn more about colon cancer visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.