The prevalence of colon cancer in the United States is about 150,000 new cases per year are detected and about 50,000 patients die per year in the United States of colon cancer. So it’s a very common problem.

Colon Cancer Risk Factors

Certain people have higher risks and people that are overweight, drink too much alcohol, smoke too many cigarettes, have a poor diet, don’t exercise or have a family history of colon cancer or have something called inflammatory bowel disease, those patients have higher risk of colon cancer and for sure should be screened.

Colon Cancer Diagnosis

There are really two types of tests, one that tests to look for colon cancer that’s already present and then the other test to try to prevent colon cancer, detect it before it’s occurring. The stool tests are sometimes looking for colon cancer that’s already present. Colonoscopy is different in that it looks for and can prevent colon cancer. It looks for polyps and if you remove polyps, that can prevent the next colon cancer.

The most important part of a colonoscopy is the cleansing prep prior to the colonoscopy and that’s what most patients complain about most is that they have to take this cleansing prep to cleanse out the colon and it’s vital to take that and follow the directions very, very carefully. The most important thing is that you want the colon completely clean so that the physician can adequately examine it with the colonoscope.

We use very good sedation now prior to the procedure and the colonoscope being inserted, so with the sedation, most patients don’t even remember that the colonoscopy’s occurring. The camera’s basically looking for any bumps or lumps that are on the colon surface that we call precancerous polyps that can then be detected and removed.

Colon cancer is one of the preventable cancers and so I think it’s important that patients understand that we can really decrease the rate of colon cancer by having some type of screening test. Once colon cancer’s detected, there are many ways of treating it. The most appropriate way, hopefully if the stage is correct, is just to remove the section of bowel and put the bowel back together. There are new developments at the UVM Medical Center and as well at the UVM Cancer Center using immune therapy and different therapeutic regimens and trials that are appropriate here.

Learn more about Colonoscopy and Colon Cancer care at the University of Vermont Medical Center.

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