Colon Cancer

April 17, 2014


Colon Cancer
Dr. Edmund Krasinski, Jr., DO, FACG, PLLC

The American Cancer Society's study of government data has revealed some positive and improved statistics regarding colon cancer. The number of Americans 50 and older with colon cancer plunged 30% from nearly three decades ago according to this new study. The number of Americans with colon cancer has been declining since the mid-1980s due to a higher rate of colonoscopies, access to information, and advancements in technology. The number of deaths from this type of cancer has almost been reduced by 50% in the last 35 years. Even though these numbers are impressive, there is still a high number of diagnoses and fatalities from this form of cancer. According to the Centers for Disease Control, nearly 150,000 people are diagnosed with colon cancer each year and over 50,000 die from colon cancer each year. This makes colon cancer the second-leading cause of cancer related deaths in the U.S. Although the American Cancer Society's study reveals that deaths are being reduced, colon cancer is still omnipresent in our society. To learn more about issues surrounding this prevalent form of cancer, Dr. Edmund Krasinski will answer a few questions on this topic.

Dr.KrasinskiDr. Krasinski is a board certified gastroenterologist whose office is located at 6879 N. Oracle Road, Tucson, AZ 85704.

Q-Are there preventative measures people can take against colon cancer?
There are preventative measures to help aide against colon cancer, just as with many other diseases. Some of these preventative measures include a healthy diet, avoid smoking, avoid excessive drinking, and some studies suggest that baby aspirin and/or general aspirin can reduce one's risk (however this data remains equivocal).

Q-What are the general tests for individuals to screen for colon cancer? When should individuals consider getting tested?
If there is a family history of colon cancer in a first degree relative diagnosed at age 60 or younger, screening should begin at age 40. If there is no family history of colon cancer, screening should begin at the age of 50. The tests that an individual would undergo are a fecal occult blood test (performed annually), flexible sigmoidoscopy and possible barium enema (every five years), and a colonoscopy at the baseline age of 50 (continue every 10 years).

Q-A lot of people fear everything about a colonoscopy - from prep to what you might find. Can you take us through a typical colonoscopy, from start to finish?
This is a multiplex issue. A lot depends on the overall health of a patient's underlying medical history, including the use of blood pressure medications, diuretics, etc. To walk you through a typical colonoscopy, here is a pamphlet that I supply to my patients.

Q-According to the American Cancer Society's recent study, the rate of Americans who are up-to-date on recommended colon cancer screening rose from 55% to 65% in the past decade. Have you noticed this improvement? What could help this number continue to increase?
Yes however, another study showed that the incidence of colon cancer decreased 30% in the last decade, which may be due to the increased use of colonoscopies for colon cancer screening. This felt secondary to increased colon cancer screening, although that is a positive increase in the right direction.

Q-What do you believe is the largest barrier for individuals gaining awareness/information about colon cancer?
There are many possibilities that can explain why individuals do not have the necessary information about colon cancer. A primary barrier for individuals is the lack of understanding about the repercussions of not getting a screening due to the fact that many believe "this won't happen to me" or "this disease doesn't run in my family." To many people's surprise, the majority of patients that develop colon cancer do not have any family history of the disease but there are some new tests being developed to help people find out more about their individual risk of colon cancer.

Q-There is a new genetic-screen test, Cologuard, that is designed to detect molecular alterations in patients' stool that are associated with colon cancer. What are your thoughts on this new test?
Cologuard is in its preliminary stages of evaluation. Cologuard is a stool-based DNA test for colon cancer that may be an effective way for patients to screen for this disease, however it is too early to tell if this test will be effective. A test like this seems like it will be useful however, it needs to be evaluated more before conclusions can be made.

Q- Is colon cancer strongly hereditary?
If a patient has family history of colon cancer, their chances of the disease increase 15%. Knowing this, it is important for people to become informed and educated on this matter, and more importantly, get a screening at the appropriate time.

Q-If people have other questions, what are good sources of information they can use?
A few reliable sources for people to access if they wish to gain more information on colon cancer are the American Cancer Society, the American Gastroenterological Association, and the American College of Gastroenterology.


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