It Is the Second Most Common Cancer Killer for Men and Women
This article originally appeared in Be Well, a health
information newsletter published for members of the Greater Marlborough
"Why do we screen for colorectal cancer?" asked John Curran, MD, a
gastroenterologist on staff at Marlborough Hospital. "Because it's the second
most common cancer killer among both men and women, yet it's largely preventable
when we find and remove precancerous polyps called adenomas. "It takes several
years for an adenoma to become a cancer," he explained. "With colonoscopy, we
can take out adenomas before they become cancer. And even if cancer is found, at
its earliest stage it has a 90 percent survival rate."
An estimated 150,000 Americans develop colorectal cancer each year, and
50,000 die of the disease. "But there has been a decrease in the incidence of
and mortality from colorectal cancer over the last several years, and that's due
to increased awareness and better screening," Dr. Curran noted, affirming the
truly lifesaving value of regular screening.
Colonoscopy remains the most effective screening tool for most people,
although virtual colonoscopy (a special CT scan) is an option for some patients
who cannot undergo conventional colonoscopy. And advances such as video capsule
colonoscopy and a genetic test to detect cancerous DNA in the stool are on the
"Colonoscopy screening is our best option for preventing colorectal cancer,"
stressed Dr. Curran. "It's also important to choose an experienced GI -
gastrointestinal - specialist to perform your colonoscopy, and to follow the
doctor's prep instructions to ensure the best detection," he added.