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Powerful Choices Podcast: You Can Prevent Colon Cancer

March 2010

Colleen: Hello and welcome to the American Cancer Society’s Powerful Choices Podcast series, where you'll get the information you need to make everyday choices that can help you be healthy and stay well. I’m Colleen Doyle, the American Cancer Society’s director of nutrition and physical activity. Thanks so much for joining us.

Today we're going to talk about a topic that a lot of people don't like to think about: screening for colorectal cancer. The thought of getting a colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy makes many people nervous.

Dr. Len Lichtenfeld is here to talk about why screening is so important. We're also going to hear from a special guest who talks about his own colonoscopy experience.

Len, first off, who needs to get screened for colorectal cancer, and what options do they have?

Len: Thanks, Colleen.

Colorectal cancer is the 3rd most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women in the US, and the 3rd leading cause of cancer death in men and women. But what many people don't know is that the disease is largely preventable through screening. And you can also reduce your risk by watching your weight and being physically active.

Colon cancer starts with a growth called a polyp that is not yet cancer. Testing can help your doctor find and remove these growths so they can be removed before they become cancerous. If the test finds that colon cancer has already developed, you have a much better chance of beating it if it is found early.

The American Cancer Society recommends that people at average risk for the disease begin screening at age 50. Those with a family history of the disease or certain risk factors should talk to their doctor about starting screening earlier or getting screened more frequently.

Slide: Facts about Colon Cancer:

  • Third most common cancer diagnosed in the US and 3rd leading cause of cancer death in men and women
  • Can be prevented through screening.
  • ACS recommends screening starting at age 50, earlier or more frequently if you have certain risk factors or a family history of the disease

Colleen: Thanks, Len. Comedian Steve Harvey also understands the importance of getting screened for colon cancer. Listen as he shares his thoughts about getting a colonoscopy:

Steve Harvey (on video): They got a test that can prevent colon cancer. You gotta go get it done. It's not that big of a deal.…

Len: Colonoscopy is one of There are several different tests that are used to find colorectal cancer early.

Some tests are more likely to find cancers than polyps. Those include stool tests like the fecal occult blood test. Other tests, like colonoscopy, can find both cancer and polyps – those tests are preferred if you're willing to get them and they're available to you.

Talk to your doctor about which test is right for you.

Slide: Tests that are more likely to find cancer than polyps include:

  • fecal occult blood test
  • fecal immunochemical test
  • stool DNA test

Slide: Tests that find polyps and cancer include:

  • Colonoscopy
  • flexible sigmoidoscopy
  • double contrast barium enema
  • CT colonography, also called virtual colonoscopy.

Slide: Tests that are more likely to find cancer than polyps:

  • Stool tests, including:
  • fecal occult blood test
  • fecal immunochemical test
  • stool DNA test

Colleen: Thanks, Len. Let's hear from Steve Harvey again.

Steve Harvey (on video): "So I'm doing this to get more people aware of it, you know, and let you know there's nothing to it. You gotta go get it done. You know, I want to live, you know, I want to see my grandkids. I've got no grandkids; I want to see some. Women play a crucial role in this whole thing because there was a moment when I was going to cancel the procedure, and she said "oh no no no, you're going." Wanting to live has got to be bigger than the fear of the procedure, or the "oh no, that's just exit only." Ok, my man, but I tell you what though, this is how it's done, to secure your future and a future for your family and your kids.

Marjorie Harvey (on video): We need him to stick around, so we need him to stay healthy.

Colleen: For more information on other things you can do to stay well and reduce your cancer risk, go to cancer.org or call us any time at 1-800-227-2345. From all of us here at the American Cancer Society, thanks for watching.