March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month: Colonoscopies offered locally at VMH

Colorectal cancer can be easily detected, yet it remains the third leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. According to the American Cancer Society Fact and Figures, 2014-2016, one in 20 Americans will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer in their lifetime. In 2010, only 5.9% of people age 50 or older underwent screening for colorectal cancer. Colorectal cancer screening tests identify suspicious or pre-cancerous polyps, which can be removed before they develop into a serious health problem.
There are different options available for detecting colorectal cancer: stool testing, such as fecal occult blood tests or stool DNA testing, flexible sigmoidoscopy, barium enema and colonoscopy. Colonoscopies are performed routinely in the Veterans Memorial Hospital surgical suite, and typically take approximately three hours from start to finish.
Both men and women are at risk for colon cancer. Personal risk varies, so local medical practitioners can help a patient make informed decisions about when to begin testing and the most appropriate testing method.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), factors associated with increased risk for colon cancer include:
• Age - most diagnosed are 50 or older
• Personal or family history of colorectal cancer or colorectal polyps
• Personal history of inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease)
• Certain genetic factors [familial adenomatous polyposis, (Gardner’s syndrome), hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (Lynch Syndrome), Ashkenazi Jewish descent]
• Low fruit and vegetable intake
• Smoking or use of other tobacco products
• Physical inactivity
• Diets low in fiber and high in fat
• Obesity
• Alcohol consumption.

Anyone with questions concerning their own health and risk of colon disease is urged to seek advice from their local family practice physician.