By Linda Breazeale
MSU Ag Communications
STARKVILLE, Miss. — When is knowing about a family history of colorectal cancer a good thing?
Clark Roman of Starkville said knowing his family’s increased incidence of colon cancer prompted him to have regular screenings. The result was early diagnosis and a relatively easy treatment. Almost five years after surgery, he is an advocate for people getting screened according to their doctors’ recommendations.
Most people have their first colonoscopy at age 50 and at intervals of 10 years unless they have a medical history that calls for earlier and/or more frequent screenings.
Roman said the doctor removed polyps during each screening beginning with his first colonoscopy in his 40s. Then in 2010, he had a plum-sized tumor removed. Even with his experience and family history, Roman was still surprised when his 23-year-old son, Adam, received a cancer diagnosis in 2013.
For all the discomfort associated with colonoscopies, Roman said they are better than the alternative.
“Don’t be stupid. Get screened regularly. It’s a no-brainer,” he said.
David Buys, health specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service and researcher with the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station, said colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States.
“Colon cancer is one of the most preventable and, if found early, most treatable cancers. If you are over 50, high risk or symptomatic, don’t put it off,” Buys said. “Screenings, including colonoscopies and at-home stool tests, are the best ways to detect problems and reduce colon cancer risks.”
The American Cancer Society estimated that 136,830 people were diagnosed with colon cancer and 50,310 died from this disease in 2014 in the United States.
“Unfortunately, the majority of cases are not found before the cancer spreads,” Buys said.
About 40 percent of these cancers are confined to the colon or rectum when discovered. Thirty-six percent of colon cancers are found after the cancer has spread to surrounding tissue. Twenty percent of colon cancers are found after the disease has spread to distant organs.
Some other recommendations to reduce colorectal cancer risks include exercising daily, eating a healthy and balanced diet, and giving up smoking.
“Exercise and a proper diet help keep the digestive tract healthy. A high-fiber diet has many health rewards,” Buys said. “Smoking has been linked to cancers beyond lung, mouth and throat.”
Buys said about 5 percent of the general public will experience colon cancer, but the incidence increases with other risk factors.
“Know your family history. People with a parent, sibling or children who have had colon cancer face a risk between two and three times higher of developing the cancer than those without a family history,” he said.
March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.