Turning 50 is an important milestone for many reasons, yet one of the most important is often overlooked. If you’re turning 50 this year, most doctors recommend you schedule a screening colonoscopy to reduce your risk of colorectal cancer.
Colorectal cancer kills more than 50,000 Americans yearly, almost as many as breast cancer and AIDS combined. It’s one of the top five causes of cancer deaths in the United States, and one of the leading causes of all deaths nationwide.
Kentucky ranks No. 2 in the country for overall incidence of colorectal cancer, according to a report issued last year by the U.S. Cancer Statistics Working Group. Kentuckians have a statewide mortality rate from colorectal cancer that is 17 percent higher than the national average.
This is truly tragic, as most colorectal cancer can be prevented with a screening colonoscopy. This outpatient procedure is performed under mild sedation, takes less than an hour, and is covered by many health insurance plans. Yet, when it comes to getting the recommended screenings, Kentucky ranks in the bottom 30 percent among the 50 states.
In a screening colonoscopy, a doctor uses a flexible instrument called an endoscope to examine the walls of the lower digestive tract, looking for tiny growths called polyps. While the polyps themselves are not cancerous, it is believed that all colorectal tumors start out as polyps. By removing polyps before they become malignant, most colorectal cancers can be prevented.
For more information, go online to www.ukhealthcare.uky.edu
and search “colorectal cancer” to find a fact sheet.
The University of Kentucky’s Markey Cancer Center is one of only six cancer centers nationwide to be awarded a SPORE (Specialized Programs in Research Excellence) grant in gastrointestinal cancers by the National Cancer Institute.
SPORE teams up laboratory and clinical scientists with the common goal of bringing new ideas to clinical settings that have the potential to reduce cancer incidence and mortality as well as improve patients’ quality of life.