Turning 50? Don't Put Off Colon Cancer Screening -- American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy

March Is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

OAK BROOK, IL--(Marketwire - Mar 4, 2013) - Colon cancer is the third leading cancer killer in the United States. Yet it is a preventable and treatable disease if diagnosed in its early stages. The American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (ASGE), representing the experts in colon cancer screening, recommends screening begin at age 50. If you are turning 50, don't put off colon cancer screening. As March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, it is a great time to learn the facts about colon cancer prevention.

Colon cancer, also referred to as colorectal cancer, is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in both men and women. More than 140,000 cases of colon cancer are expected to occur in 2013 and over 50,000 will die from the disease. Death rates for colon cancer have declined in both men and women over the past two decades; from 2005 to 2009, the rate declined by 2.4 percent per year in men and by 3.1 percent per year in women. These decreases reflect declining incidence rates and improvements in early detection and treatment.

Colon cancer is considered a silent killer because often there are no symptoms until it is too late to treat. Age is the single largest risk factor for the disease, so even people who lead a healthy lifestyle can develop polyps and cancer. Both men and women are affected by colon cancer equally. Most colon cancers arise from precancerous growths in the colon called polyps, which can be found during a colonoscopy screening exam and removed before they turn into cancer.

"Cases of colon cancer have been decreasing, which is largely the result of increased screening for the disease, however, there are still people putting off screening at age 50. ASGE encourages patients to get screened at intervals recommended by their doctor, to find a qualified endoscopist for their colonoscopy who has had specialized training in the procedure and to carefully follow preparation instructions to ensure that the colon is thoroughly cleaned so that no polyps or cancers are missed during the procedure," said ASGE President Thomas M. Deas, Jr., MD, MMM, FASGE. "A quality colonoscopy and appropriate follow-up exams can prevent colon cancer and save lives."

ASGE recommends that screening begin at age 50. A person at average risk with normal screening results won't need another exam for 10 years. If polyps or cancer are found, screening intervals will be more frequent. Colon cancer runs in families, so screening should begin sooner if there is a family history of polyps, colon cancer or if other risk factors are present. Some experts suggest African-Americans should begin screening at age 45.

Screening methods include colonoscopy, sigmoidoscopy, stool blood tests such as fecal occult blood test (FOBT) or fecal immunochemical test (FIT), stool DNA, CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy), and barium enema.

Colonoscopy is considered the preferred screening method because it is a preventive exam: it is the only test that both finds and removes precancerous polyps during the same exam. With other methods, if a polyp or other abnormality is found, the test must often be followed by a colonoscopy. A 2012 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed the death rate from colon cancer was reduced by 53 percent for patients who had a colonoscopy and had precancerous polyps removed. Colonoscopy is a safe, effective and well-tolerated exam.

Colon Cancer Prevention Tips:

  • Screening should begin at age 50
  • Screening should begin before age 50 if you have a family history of colon cancer/polyps or if you have other risk factors
  • Colonoscopy finds and removes polyps before they turn into cancer
  • Colon cancer is highly treatable if caught early
  • If you have bleeding or unexplained abdominal pain, talk to your doctor immediately

For more information on colon cancer prevention and to find a doctor, log on to ASGE's colon cancer awareness website www.screen4coloncancer.org. The site offers visitors a wealth of vital information including facts about colon cancer, screening options, what to expect during a colonoscopy, answers to frequently asked questions, the latest news about colon cancer, such as studies and statistics, links to patient support and advocacy groups, educational videos, and e-Cards.

Join ASGE's "Peter and Polly Polyp" Facebook page and spread the word to your family and friends about colon cancer prevention. Colon cancer is preventable, treatable and beatable!

About the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy
Since its founding in 1941, the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (ASGE) has been dedicated to advancing patient care and digestive health by promoting excellence in gastrointestinal endoscopy. ASGE, with more than 12,000 members worldwide, promotes the highest standards for endoscopic training and practice, fosters endoscopic research, recognizes distinguished contributions to endoscopy, and is the foremost resource for endoscopic education. Visit www.asge.org and www.screen4coloncancer.org for more information and to find a qualified doctor in your area.

About Endoscopy
Endoscopy is performed by specially-trained physicians called endoscopists using the most current technology to diagnose and treat diseases of the gastrointestinal tract. Using flexible, thin tubes called endoscopes, endoscopists are able to access the human digestive tract without incisions via natural orifices. Endoscopes are designed with high-intensity lighting and fitted with precision devices that allow viewing and treatment of the gastrointestinal system. 

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Contact Information:

Media Contact:
Anne Brownsey
(630) 570-5635