March 12, 2015
By Richard Wender, MD
We have made amazing progress in reducing colon cancer death rates. This progress is a direct result of increasing screening for colon cancer and pre-cancerous polyps. We are actually preventing thousands of cancers by finding and removing pre-cancerous polyps. The nation has embraced the goal of increasing national screening rates to 80% by the end of 2018 - an achievement that will substantially reduce the terrible toll that colon cancer exacts every year. Everyone is at risk for colon cancer, whether or not someone in your family has ever had a colon polyp or colon cancer. For that reason, everyone has to start being screened for colon cancer at age 50, and people with inflammatory bowel disease or a family history of colon cancer or polyps have to start before they reach age 50. Colon cancer screening is one of the best opportunities to prevent cancer that we've ever discovered.
Despite this compelling reason to be screened, many people either have never had a colon cancer screening test or are not up-to-date with screening. Interestingly, nearly all of these unscreened people know that they should be screened, In fact, awareness about colon cancer screening recommendations approaches 100%. The American Cancer Society asked more than 2,000 unscreened adults a series of questions about screening, and we now have a pretty clear idea about what's stopping people from taking that lifesaving step:
- Some people are concerned about the cost of the test
- Others have heard that the test is difficult or painful, and they may be embarrassed to discuss colon cancer screening
- Some people think screening is only for those who have symptoms
- Others think that having no family history of colon cancer means that they are not at risk and don't have to be screened
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, many people are concerned about the complexity and cost of having a colonoscopy, like the need to take time off from work, the need to have a ride home, and the potential for high out-of-pocket expenses, which all combine to discourage them from having a colonoscopy. More...
March 12, 2014
By Richard C. Wender, MD
About a year ago, U.S. Assistant Secretary for Health Howard Koh, MD, invited a small group of people to his office to discuss the opportunity for the nation to start a full court press to end colorectal (colon) cancer as a major public health problem in the United States. The meeting idea came from a conversation on his back porch with his college friend Ron Vender, MD, who had just been elected President of the American College of Gastroenterology (ACG). Howard asked Ron how he could most effectively work with the ACG and, together, they decided that it was the right time to tackle colon cancer in a big way.
Dr. Koh invited leaders of the organizations that were at the center of public health efforts to increase colon cancer screening rates to attend the meeting. Screening is looking for cancer in people who have no symptoms of the disease. In the case of colon cancer, screening can find the disease at an early, more treatable stage, and it can also prevent it altogether. This is because colon cancer screening tests often find polyps, which can then be removed before they have a chance to become cancerous.
Leaders from the American Cancer Society and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) were joined by leaders of several other vital governmental agencies, gastroenterologist organizations, and the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable (NCCRT). The NCCRT is an organization co-founded 17 years ago by the American Cancer Society and CDC. Today, the NCCRT brings together close to 80 organizations with a single common goal: to increase colon cancer screening rates, our most effective way to fight the disease. The key to the NCCRT's success has been its commitment to joining diverse organizations as equal stakeholders, to do the kind of work that no one organization can accomplish alone. It's a great example of public health in action. More...
March 13, 2013
By Durado Brooks, MD, MPH
Suppose that, during your next doctor's visit, you look at your medical record and your doctor has written "53- year-old diabetic white female, here today for a check-up." Would you be bothered by that description? Probably not. Your doctor is just discussing your medical condition, right? But what if, instead of "diabetic" the note read "53-year-old obese white female?" How would you feel now? Hurt? Angry? Sad? Would you think, "Why is my doctor being so mean?"
For many, the term "obese" brings to mind a massively overweight individual (like "Fat Albert" in the old Saturday morning cartoons). In reality most obese people don't look like Albert.
Obesity is a medical term
Obesity is actually a precise medical term that is based on a measure of body fat called the Body Mass Index (BMI). The BMI is calculated from a person's height and weight. In general, a higher BMI indicates a higher amount of body fat. Adults with a BMI between 18 and 25 are in the "healthy" body fat/weight category. People with a BMI between 25 and 30 are considered overweight, and a BMI greater than 30 signifies obesity. Many people who view themselves as having a "normal weight" (or at most "pleasingly plump") are shocked when they do this calculation and realize that 180 pounds on their 5 feet 6 inch frame means they are medically obese.
Our obsession with body image creates an emotional context for obesity that doesn't exist for most other medical issues. But make no mistake about it - obesity is a medical condition, and like other medical problems it has important long-term implications for health and well-being. More...
March 21, 2012
By Durado Brooks, MD
How often do you think a family conversation about cancer occurs? The truth is, not nearly often enough.
Colorectal cancer (often called simply "colon cancer") is cancer that develops in the colon or the rectum, and it's the third most common cancer in the U.S. While most people diagnosed with colon cancer do not have a family history the disease, people who have this cancer in their family have a significantly higher chance of being diagnosed. The good news is that colon cancer is one of the most preventable cancers, and this prevention can work even for people who are at high risk of the disease. More...
March 31, 2011
By Colleen Doyle, MS, RD
Did you hear the one about the hot dog and the rotisserie chicken? Recent news reports suggest that, at least when it comes to cancer, the hot dog may be the better choice.
But don't reach for the mustard and relish just yet.
Researchers at Kansas State University, with funding in part from the American Meat Institute and the National Pork Board Check-off, tested the heterocyclic amine (HCA) levels of a variety of popular ready-to-eat meat products: hot dogs, deli meats, bacon, pepperoni and rotisserie chicken. HCAs are chemicals that are formed in meats when they are cooked at very high temperatures. Studies show that these chemicals can damage DNA and cause cancer in animals. It's not clear how much they may contribute to cancer risk in people. Even so, the American Cancer Society recommends cooking meats with methods that create fewer HCAs, such as baking or poaching.
March 22, 2011
By Ted Gansler, MD, MBA
There's been a lot of news lately about cancer-sniffing dogs after a new study by Japanese researcher Hideto Sonoda and his colleagues was published in the medical journal Gut. So we couldn't help but wonder, is that possible?
If you haven't heard about it, the recent study suggests that specially-trained dogs can identify the scent of volatile chemicals (those that evaporate into the air at room temperature) present in colon cancer. More...
March 09, 2011
By Durado Brooks, MD, MPH
Embarrassing! Painful! Disgusting!!
These are some of the words that come to mind for lots of folks when they think about getting tested for colorectal cancer. Let's face it - this involves a part of the body and bodily functions that people don't talk about in polite conversation. Hopefully I can convince you that they (and you) need to get past this attitude and get on with testing.
Cancers of the colon and the rectum (the last sections of the digestive system) are extremely common. In fact, they're the third most common cancer in US men and women. The good news is the rates of this disease have been falling steadily over the past 20 years, and a big part of the decrease is directly related to testing for colorectal cancer. You see, not only can testing help find the disease early, when it's highly treatable, but testing can actually help to prevent the disease! That's because most colorectal cancers start as a small, non-cancerous growth called a polyp. Finding and removing these polyps stops cancer before it starts.