How to Protect Yourself from Colorectal Cancer

May 2, 2008

When it comes to preventing colorectal cancer, knowledge really is power. There is a great deal you can do to help prevent or stop this second-leading cause of cancer deaths. Here, David Dresner, MD, gastroenterologist with Gastroenterology of Southern Indiana, gives you the facts that can help save your life.

“About 150,000 new cases of colorectal cancer are diagnosed each year in the United States, with nearly 55,000 Americans dying from the disease,” said Dr. Dresner. “Closer to home, in 2007, approximately 3,390 people in Indiana were diagnosed with colon cancer, of which, 1,180 died. And men and women are affected almost equally.”

Risk Factors

As Dr. Dresner explained, “There are certain genetic factors which predispose people to colorectal cancer, however, these conditions account for fewer than five percent of cases. The majority of colon cancers are sporadic, not familial, underscoring the importance of screening the average individual. A history of colon cancer or polyps in firstand second-degree relatives is a risk factor. In addition, a personal history of polyps, Crohn’s colitis and ulcerative colitis increase an individual’s risk. There is evidence that diabetes may also be a factor.” Dr. Dresner added that there are also many risk factors that an individual can control. Among them are excessive alcohol consumption, obesity and cigarette smoking. Evidence also supports the view that longterm consumption of red meat or processed meats is associated with an increased risk.

Screening -The Most Important Step You Can Take

While there are other methods, colonoscopy is widely accepted as the preferred screening option. According to Dr. Dresner, “Colonoscopy is an excellent diagnostic tool. It is a complete exam of the entire colon. It is also a therapeutic tool in that if I find a polyp, I can actually remove it during the screening, eliminating the possibility that it could turn into cancer.”

Laparoscopy Simplifies Colorectal Surgeries

“It’s getting to the point where most intra-abdominal surgeries can be done laparoscopically,” said Julie R. Hutchinson, MD, specialist in general surgery. “That can greatly decrease pain, recovery time and length of hospital stay.” Laparoscopic surgery involves the insertion of a narrow cannula into the abdomen through a very small incision. The laparoscope is then inserted through the cannula, allowing the surgeon to see inside the patient’s abdomen by viewing the images on a monitor. Other surgical instruments can then be inserted through additional tiny incisions.

According to Dr. Hutchinson, “The majority of colon resections for colon cancer can also be performed laparoscopically. It’s a huge benefit considering recovery.”