Colorectal cancer is one of the most common cancers out there. It’s more common now because of the types of food that we eat. Everything from smoked foods and lunch meats to low fiber foods have been implicated in increasing your chances of getting the disease. Eating a lot of fiber helps prevent the disease because frequent bowel movements reduce the amount of time that the carcinogens stay in your colon.
African-Americans suffer from the disease more that other ethnic groups. The reason for this may be genetic in nature. I lost a very good friend to colon cancer a few years ago. Eric and I worked together for some 15 years. We hung out together and played racquetball. He was never sick a day in his life, not even a cold. Imagine my surprise when he called and told me that he had cancer. He had just gotten married and had his first child.
I was worried when he told me that he had been diagnosed with stage 4, the most advanced type of cancer. But he told me that it hadn’t spread and there was still a chance of a cure. After a long surgery where several feet of intestine were removed, he seemed to get better. We even went hiking at one point. I had trouble keeping up with him. But a couple years later, the cancer returned. This time it had spread to other organs, including his kidneys. The last time I saw him he was in incredible pain. He passed away about 6 months later.
Anyone over the age of fifty should have a colonoscopy. It’s even more important to get one if you are African-American or have a history of colon cancer in your family. But colonoscopies are unpleasant and expensive. If you have no history in your family of colon cancer, then you can probably get away with a stool test for blood.
According to Medical News Today: “While colonoscopies are the most accurate method for the early detection of colorectal cancers, screening with fecal occult blood tests results in more efficient use of limited budgets, according to a new study by researchers at RTI International.”
“The study, modeled scenarios to assess whether fecal occult blood test or colonoscopy provides the most benefit. The researchers found that, when compared with colonoscopy, under most scenarios high-sensitivity fecal occult blood tests would result in more individuals getting screened with more life years gained.”
So the bottom line is no matter what kind of test you get, you should definitely have one after 50 and earlier if your family has a history of the disease, or you are in a high risk group. The life that you save may very well be your own.