Dr. Thaddeus Bell describes colorectal cancer it's risk factors. He provides recommendations for when to get a colonoscopy and describes this procedure.
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Colorectal cancer Dr. Thaddeus Bell: Colorectal cancer is a very common cancer that we see in the general population and also a lot in minorities. It is a cancer that affects the colon. It first starts off as a polyp and then as time progress it turns into a more devastating lesion. Colon cancer is very interesting because when one developed symptoms of colon cancer, that is not the bad sign. So what we try to do today is we try to get to people before they developed symptoms. You can have one of these polyps which is going to progress to colon cancer, very early in the stage of colon cancer and that is the reason why we're trying to encourage patients when they turned 50, to go get a colonoscopy. An early sign of colon cancer maybe seeing blood in the stool. We used to do these little fecal blood test, where you put some feces on a card and then you put a developer on it and it would tell us that you have blood in your stool and then that would lead us to go ahead and do a colonoscopy. But we found out that the gold standard for finding out about colon cancer is really to do the colonoscopy, where the doctor inserts a tube up to your rectum and he looks through a scope at the lining of the colon and when he sees something that is suspicious then he biopsies it and sends it to the pathologist. So the take home point is that it's a very common cancer. You should have, if you're 50 or older, you should have a colonoscopy done and it should be done every five years. We also know that it seems to run in families. So if you have a family history of colon cancer then the surveillance for it should possibly be started earlier. Some new information has come out about colon cancer regarding smoking and that is the new research shows that if you have a history of smoking, then your surveillance of colon cancer should be started earlier. The problem that we're currently experiencing is that often times when we have this new information, the insurance companies are not on board with the new information. So if you ask the insurance company to approve a colonoscopy for somebody who has a long history of smoking, they may seeing -- so that's a barrier. We don't have to work on that problem, but definitely if you have a family history or if you have blood in your stool, then you definitely should go and get a colonoscopy. Once a patient develops colon cancer then that means that the prognosis goes down, these patients are going to have to have chemotherapy, sometimes radiation therapy, but we do a lot better if we can prevent the disease. So if you're 50 or above and you never had a colonoscopy, then you should ask your doctor to have that test done. African Americans and Colorectal Cancer Dr. Thaddeus Bell: African Americans are less likely to get a screening. Some early studies show that many doctors do not even offer African Americans the colonoscopy and so that's why we're trying to make sure that the information is out there in the African American community, that that test needs to be done if your doctor has not suggested it. But we're spinning quite a bit of time trying to prevent the disease. This is one of several diseases that you can prevent with getting the test done. If there is a polyp present, having the polyp taken out. Just having the polyp taken out is often times a prevention of the disease. What are the risk factors for colorectal cancer? Dr. Thaddeus Bell: Having a family history is a risk factor. Being obese is a risk factor for colon cancer. For patients who eat a lot of meat, that is a small, but that is a risk factor.