Living with cancer blog

Colon cancer awareness first step toward prevention

By Sheryl M. Ness, R.N. March 2, 2013
March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. I thought we'd revisit this topic because it's so important and many advances have been made over the past few years.

Men and women alike can get colon cancer, however, people at a higher risk for developing colon cancer include those with a history of inflammatory bowel disease (including ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease) and those with a family history of colon cancer.

The two most common inherited syndromes linked with colorectal cancers are familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) and hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC), also known as Lynch Syndrome. FAP is caused by mutations in the APC gene that you inherit from your parents.

Women with HNPCC have a high risk of also developing cancer of the endometrium (lining of the uterus). Other cancers linked with HNPCC include cancer of the ovary, stomach, small bowel, pancreas, kidney, brain, ureters (tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder), and bile duct.

Colon cancer can be prevented with screening and removal of any polyps before they develop into cancer. Normally, screening should begin at age 50. However, if you have a higher risk or a family history you may need to be screened at a younger age.

Screening methods include stool tests to check for blood (fecal occult blood test), sigmoidoscopy, colonoscopy, double-contrast barium enema, and CT colonography (or virtual colonoscopy).

A newer screening method, stool DNA (sDNA) testing, awaits FDA approval. It identifies abnormal changes (markers) in the cells that are shed by the lining of the colon. That in turn can lead to early detection of polyps and colon cancer.

Research has shown that this noninvasive test accurately detects both colon cancer (at early stages) and precancerous polyps.

Look for updates on the new sDNA test and read more about it on mayoclinic.com. Work with your health care provider to find out what your personal risk is and how often you should be screened. Have you had your colon cancer screening test?

Follow me on Twitter at @SherylNess1. Join the discussion at #livingwithcancer.

With

Sheryl M. Ness, R.N.

Follow on Twitter: @SherylNess1

Join the discussion at #livingwithcancer.

Mar. 02, 2013