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Thursday, July 18, 2024

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Scoop on the Scope: Colonoscopies Can Reduce Risk of Cancer

Dr. Del Rosario

By From Michael Del Rosario, M.D., Director, Division of Colorectal Surgery, AtlantiCare

The word “colonoscopy” once was an automatic cue to change the subject. Today, however, more people are aware of the importance of having the procedure. A few facts explain why.
According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer (CRC) rates in the U.S. declined by about 1% (mostly among older adults) each year between 2013-2017, “mainly because people are getting screened and changing their lifestyle-related risk factors.” Secondly, colon cancer is preventable. Which leads to one other critical point — considered the gold standard in screening, colonoscopy is a powerful way to reduce CRC risk among people aged 45 and older, or who have a family history of CRC.
AtlantiCare Cancer Care Institute (CCI) and Surgical Services treat patients in our Cape May Court House and Egg Harbor Township CCI locations. In recognition of March being National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, our teams remind the community that there have been some recent changes in screening options and recommendations that everyone needs to be aware of — regardless of their age or risk factors.
The American Cancer Society now recommends that those at average risk start screenings at age 45, and continue to have screenings through age 75, or longer if their healthcare provider recommends it. According to Yale Medicine, the incidence rate of CRC among people younger than 45 is also rising — making it important that all adults be aware of their risk and take steps accordingly to start screening earlier and/or be screened more frequently if risk factors exist. CRC risk factors include:
    A personal history of CRC or colorectal polyps
    A personal history of inflammatory bowel disease
    A family history of CRC or polyps
    Having an inherited gene mutation that causes family cancer syndromes
    Having type 2 diabetes
    Being older — CRC is much more common in people over 50
In addition to being aware of risk factors you cannot change, there are lifestyle changes you can make to lower your risk of CRC. These include maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking, staying physically active, following a diet low in red meats and processed meats and high in fiber, and limiting your alcohol intake. Always contact a healthcare provider immediately if you experience any of the telltale symptoms that may indicate CRC, such as rectal bleeding, unusual stool color, changes in your bowel movements, and being tired or experiencing lower levels of energy.
Finally, while at-home testing kits are available, home tests should never replace a colonoscopy. These tests are typically used in special individualized circumstances when colonoscopy cannot be performed, and even then, only after discussion with a healthcare provider. At-home test kits have a higher colon polyp/cancer miss rate, and when positive, a colonoscopy is still needed. Colonoscopies, on the other hand, can both detect cancer and prevent it by locating and removing polyps before they become cancerous.
To learn more, find a provider, and schedule a screening, visit www.atlanticare.org or call 1-888-569-1000.

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