Health Advice Column
Family History - About 20 - 25% of colorectal cancers occur among people with a family history of the disease. The risk is even higher if the relative was diagnosed with colorectal cancer before the age of 60.
About 5 - 10% of patients with colorectal cancer have an inherited genetic abnormality that causes the disease. Genetic mutations associated with colorectal cancer include familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) and hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC).
The risks for colon cancer are far higher in industrialized nations than less developed countries. A Western lifestyle, being sedentary, smoking, and excess weight have all been associated with increased risk for colorectal cancer.
Colon and rectal cancers are diagnosed using the screening tests discussed below. These tests can detect precancerous polyps and colorectal cancers at stages early enough for complete removal and cure.
Individuals should discuss with their doctors the risks and benefits of all screening procedures. Some controversy exists over how often people without risk factors for cancer should be screened and which detection method should be used for them.
Guidelines for Adults Age 50 and Over with Average Risk
The following are the five screening options recommended for people age 50 and over who have no symptoms and no family history of colon cancer:
- Fecal occult blood test (FOBT) or fecal immunochemical test (FIT) every year
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 years
- FOBT or FIT every year plus sigmoidoscopy every 5 years
- Double-contrast barium enema every 5 years
- Colonoscopy every 10 years
- In 2005, colorectal cancer was expected to cause 145,290 new cases and 56,290 deaths in the United States. Colorectal cancer is almost always a preventable or curable disease when it is caught early.
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