NYACK, N.Y. -- Although largely preventable through proper screening, colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer deaths in men and women in the United States. According to Dr. Yaron Langman of Digestive Disease Associates of Rockland in Pomona, and attending physician at Nyack Hospital, too many people avoid getting lifesaving testing for the deadly disease.
“Screening for colorectal cancer can save lives—but only if people get tested,” said Langman. “We can dramatically decrease the number of cases each year if more people get screened." During screens, cancer can be detected at an early, treatable stage. In some cases, it can be prevented through the detection and removal of precancerous polyps.
Testing need not be frequent, said Langman. Most people should be screened every 10 years starting at age 50, unless they are in a high-risk group. People at higher risk are those who have a close relative who has had colorectal polyps or have had colorectal cancer, people who have had polyps or a history of the cancer themselves, people with inflammatory bowel disease and those who have genetic syndromes.
When it comes to testing, there are several options for colorectal cancer screening, with colonoscopies considered the "gold standard." In the procedure, doctors use a flexible, lighted tube called a colonoscope to look in the rectum and colon to examine tissues and potential polyps. However, other tests do exist, including a flexible sigmoidoscopy, high-sensitivity fecal occult blood test and Cologuard test.
“One of the major reasons more people don’t get screened is that they've heard stories about the preparation involved in getting a colonoscopy, and it scares them off,” said Langman. “Or they’re worried it will hurt.” However, with the proper preparation, the process is usually quick and painless. “It’s not fun, but it’s really not bad – plus you only have to do it once every 10 years,” he said.
To promote colorectal health, Nyack Hospital is participating in the national “80% by 2018” initiative, in which dozens of organizations have committed to eliminating colorectal cancer as a major public health problem. The goal is that 80 percent of adults aged 50 and older are screened for colorectal cancer by 2018. Health care providers at Nyack Hospital are working to educate patients about the benefits of screening.
“One-third of eligible New Yorkers have never had any screening for colorectal cancer,” said Langman. “If we can get to an 80 percent screening rate, we can dramatically decrease the rate of this disease.”
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