What's Up Your Butt?

CRC starThis expression may sound crass, but the literal question is very important. “What IS up your butt?”, or better said, “what is in your colon?” may determine if you will get colon cancer or not. As pointed out by the Colon Cancer Alliance, “the dangers, prevention, and treatment of colon cancer are still not widely known and are not discussed because colon cancer affects a part of the body that people often find embarrassing and are even forbidden to talk about”. Colon cancer is the 2nd leading cause of cancer death in men and women in the US. It affects approximately 150,000 people a year, of which one third will die of the disease. At least 85% of colorectal cancers are sporadic, that is, occurring in an individual without a family history of colon cancer, and the risk of colon cancer increases with every decade of life. Interestingly, the incidence of this disease in individuals under age 50 is increasing (more than one tenth of diagnosed colorectal cancers occur in this population). Colorectal cancer, however, remains one of the most preventable diseases in the US, because almost all colon cancers start out as a small growth called a polyp, which progresses to cancer over time. So if you have polyps, they can be removed before they turn into cancer.


How do you know if you have polyps? Most polyps do not have any signs or symptoms. The best way to find out if you have polyps is to have a doctor look inside your colon. This is done by a simple test called a “COLONOSCOPY”. During a colonoscopy, not only will polyps be detected, but they can also be removed at the same time. Being in a regular screening program with colonoscopies every 3-10years, depending on an individual’s own findings and family history, prevents this disease. Thanks to widespread use of colonoscopy, the incidence and mortality rates of this disease are decreasing among those older than 50 years, yet increasing in younger individuals, for whom screening use is limited and key symptoms may go unrecognized. Most people should be screened with colonoscopy starting at age 50. However, there are some risk factors for which screening should begin earlier in life. If someone has a family history of colon polyps or cancer, they should start the screening process earlier. It is important to discuss your health with your family members. Y ou should ask your parents and siblings to see if any of them had colon polyps that were removed. This is important information in determining when to have a colonoscopy, but many people do not share this information readily. Remember that most colon cancers can be prevented with screening and the BEST screening method is colonoscopy.


“What’s up your butt?” Well, get a colonoscopy and find out! The answer could seriously save your life!


Below are answers to some frequently asked questions (FAQ’s).


  • Cancer of your colon or large intestine, which is the last 3-5 feet of your intestines or digestive system.


  • For practical purposes there is only one kind, but it can be early or advanced with very different prognosis and treatment.


  • Usually there are no symptoms, that is most common….however some symptoms are change in bowel habits, diarrhea, constipation, bleeding, anemia, weight loss, or pain.


  • Prevention is by having a colonoscopy to detect polyps, which grow in your colon, and have them removed before they turn into colon cancer. Eating a healthy diet, high in fiber and low in fat also helps prevent colon and other cancers as well. Smoking also increases your risk of colon cancer and other cancers as well.


  • Again, prevention is the key, but if you have colon cancer it would be seen on colonoscopy as well.


  • If caught early then a surgical resection (removal) is usually all that is needed. If it becomes more advanced then chemotherapy is given after surgery.


  • This depends on when it is found. If it is found early then the prognosis is GREAT for a cure but if found late it is likely the cancer will spread and eventually lead to death. Unfortunately, colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the US. The good news is that it is preventable by getting a colonoscopy in a timely manner and rates are dropping.


  • Your first colonoscopy should be at age 50 unless you are at increased risk. Having colon cancer or colon polyps in a parent, sibling or child puts you at increased risk and you should have your first colonoscopy at age 40, and sometimes even earlier. Discuss this with your doctor.


  • Colonoscopy should be performed by gastroenterologists. Studies show that gastroenterologists have the highest polyp detection rate and highest rate of colon cancer prevention.

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