It's a disease that's preventable, treatable and beatable. March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.
The biggest step in prevention is that we're simply talking about it more. It can be an uncomfortable conversation talking about the colon, but it is necessary. Last year, 142,820 people were diagnosed with colon cancer and 50,830 died.
Advocates are finding more ways to get the conversation started. How about the “Love Your Butt” campaign? Or the new game that debuted this week in Manhattan called the Colon-o-tron.
New developments surface all the time in the fight to stop cancer. Just before Colon Cancer Awareness Month started, a new screening pill got a lot of attention following its approval by the FDA. It's called “pillcam.” The technology from Israel is basically a vitamin-sized camera that travels through the colon. It was approved in the U.S. after already becoming a regular device in 80 other countries.
Some of those places use the pill as an alternative to a colonoscopy, but that's not exactly the case here. It's only approved for those who've already tried a colonoscopy and had incomplete results. Plus, the part so many people dread, the day-long preparation process of liquids and laxatives is the same for the pill.
"The prep does need to be adequate so a good visualization can be done of the lining of the colon, so a polyp isn't accidentally missed,” says Dr. Stephen Dreyer at the Fremont Area Medical Center.
While we're talking pills, there's a new study out from Japan crediting aspirin with reducing colon polyps. “We've seen similar studies in the U.S., but this new one tested people who'd already had polyps removed. For non-smokers, polyps were 60 percent less likely to return following a daily dose of aspirin.
Your screening can start with a blood test kit you take home and send in yourself. You can get them, at no cost, from most pharmacies around the metro. It's not nearly as effective as a colonoscopy, but it's at least a step.
"There is a segment of the population that simply either ignores it or is fearful of something like this done. so this is an alternative to doing it in a less invasive manner and getting the idea of regular screening across to them,” says Dr. Dreyer, who adds the kit the Fremont Area Medical Center is handing out is much more effective than the previous version, which he says had a high rate of false positive readings. He points out this is an alternative to the colonoscopy, yet if this were to come back positive, the next step you'd have to take would be undergoing a colonoscopy.