Preventing Colon Cancer: What You Can Do
WebMD News Archive
explains fecal occult blood testing, which looks for blood in the stool that
may signal the presence of a precancerous polyp. It also discusses flexible
sigmoidoscopy, a procedure in which a flexible tube is inserted through the
rectum, allowing the doctor to look for polyps in part of the
WebMD that large, well-designed studies have shown that fecal occult blood
testing can detect colon cancer and that this early detection reduces the death
rate by about 33%. "And the people who were studied in those trials were
over age 50, so we really believe that colon cancer screening is effective for
adults over age 50, men and women."
Schoen, MD, MPH, tells WebMD that everyone should be getting screened for
colorectal cancer after age 50. Schoen is director of the Center for Families
at Risk for Colorectal Cancer at the University of Pittsburgh Medical
occult blood testing, an annual test is recommended. For flexible
sigmoidoscopy, it's every five years," says Schoen. "The American
College of Gastroenterology recently came out saying that the preferred
screening strategy is colonoscopy every 10 years."
insurance companies do not always pay for these tests, Schoen says. "We're
kind of in the same place we were with mammography 20 years ago; insurance
wouldn't cover 'screening' tests but would cover [the same test] if you felt a
lump in your breast. When you say you're just going for a preventive test,
insurance companies don't like that."
But in 1998,
Medicare for the first time said that it would cover annual fecal occult blood
testing; sigmoidoscopy every five years; and, in certain high-risk situations,
colonoscopy, a test that is similar to sigmoidoscopy but allows examination of
the entire colon, Schoen says.
- Although new
research is showing that a diet high in fiber does not protect against colon
cancer, other components in the diet, such as lutein and folate, do show some
research is has shown that taking aspirin or other similar medications can
lower the risk of colon cancer.
- Screening for
colon cancer is recommended for everyone over 50 and involves one of several
tests -- a fecal occult blood test, flexible sigmoidoscopy, or