If the thought of a colonoscopy makes you cringe, you are not alone. The day-before-prep is enough to make most people wince. Despite the unpleasantness, screening for colon cancer is not something to be taken lightly or even ignored. Now, with some alternatives to the dreaded colonoscopy, adults age 50-75 are being encouraged to make sure they are tested for the deadly disease.
By the end of the year it is estimated that 134,000 people in the U.S. will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer and 49,000 of those cases will result in death, making it the second leading cause of death from cancer in the country (only behind lung cancer). Statistics like that should send people running to the doctor, yet only two-thirds of adults eligible for a screening have ever had one in their lifetime, let alone on a regular basis.
The American Cancer Society recommends adults at an average risk of colon cancer have a colonoscopy every ten years beginning at age 50. An independent panel of health experts known as the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force agrees, releasing important information for those who are reluctant to undergo a colonoscopy. The Task Force advocates that adults age 50-75 take part in one of a number of different methods of colorectal cancer screenings. The panel found that alternative screenings to a colonoscopy were at least 90% as effective as having the procedure done. These tests include:
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy—similar to a colonoscopy but not as invasive
- CT colonography—a scan of the colon
- Regular fecal occult test—to look for blood in the stool, which may be a symptom of colon cancer
- Cologuard DNA stool test—recently approved at-home test which detects abnormal cells and finds any altered DNA within them that may be a sign of cancerous or precancerous cells
While there are pros and cons to each method, the idea is to get the public thinking about being proactive when it comes to testing and discuss the options with their doctor.
Over the last decade the number of cases of colon cancer has been decreasing for adults over 50, a trend the medical community hopes will continue with these new testing options. The focus has begun to shift to adults under 50, a group who has seen the number of cases jump by over 11% in the same ten years. Even more frightening is that a large number of patients with colon cancer under 50 are misdiagnosed due to their age. This failure to diagnose can lead to discovering the cancer when it has already reached stage 3 or stage 4, where it is much less treatable.
Whether you are over or under 50 years old, it is important to pay attention to your body. Aside from a family history of colon cancer, obesity, lack of exercise with a high fat diet, and excessive drinking can lead to tumors developing in the colon. Any changes to bowel habits or abdominal pain should be brought to the attention of a doctor. If you or someone you love has suffered due to a misdiagnosis of colon cancer, it is a difficult road for everyone involved. Please contact the compassionate and experienced attorneys at Finz & Finz, P.C., to fight for you against the medical professionals who missed this serious diagnosis.