Just another WordPress weblog
RSS icon Email icon Home icon
  • Colon Cancer Awareness Raised

    Posted on December 6th, 2011 Patricia No comments

    All last week, Katie Couric, host of NBC’s “Today” program, focused her attention on this country’s second leading cause of cancer: colon cancer. Couric has tremendous personal insight into this subject, as her husband, NBC attorney Jay Monahan, died of this disease two years ago at age 42.

    NBC and Couric deserve high praise for this effort. The information presented was hard hitting, authoritative and blunt. Those who have long postponed having colonoscopy, which is the “gold standard” of colon cancer screening, surely received great assurance from watching Couric herself undergoing this procedure on camera. She was living evidence that a colonoscopy is basically painless — and nothing to fear.

    Some 135,000 Americans are diagnosed annually with colorectal cancer, or CRC, and about 55,000 die from the disease. Americans have an approximately 6 percent lifetime opportunity of developing this disease, which means that without preventive action, about 1 in every l7 Americans will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer.

    The Couric-NBC spotlight on colon cancer is not only admirable, but unusual. There is a plethora of media coverage for breast and prostate cancer, for example — and colon cancer has, until recently, had the unhappy designation as “the cancer nobody talks about.” A lack of research success is exactly not the cause for this lack of media attention.

    The last decade has brought considerable success in our understanding of the genetic reasons of CRC and of the importance of detecting and removing adenomatous polyps (benign tumors) to prevent colon cancer. There has also been preliminary research data indicating that there may soon be rx drugs available to lower the risk of developing CRC.

    CRC has not been as widely publicized as breast or prostate cancer, probably because people are reluctant to discuss diseases of the bowel, and also because CRC doesn’t have a sex-specific advocacy group. Women lobby for breast cancer research and programs, and men, to a lesser extent, lobby for prostate cancer research. But CRC affects both sexes with similar frequency.

    Nearly all CRC develops from benign growths in the colon and rectum. Pre-malignant cells can mutate to become malignant. One way to detect the presence of either a polyp or a cancer is to look for blood in the feces with a fecal occult blood test.

    But the most thorough way to screen for colon cancer is the colonoscopic exam. The colonoscope is a long, flexible, fiber optic tube that can view the entire large intestine. Colonoscopy — and, to a lesser degree, sigmoidoscopy — can detect cancers in early, treatable stages. And at least as important is the fact that they can also detect polyps and remove them on the spot — thus actually preventing CRC.

    Hats off to NBC and Katie Couric for raising awareness and offering assurance to the squeamish about “the disease no one talks about.” The message came through loud and clear: With regular screening, colon cancer, unlike so many other forms of cancer, is an almost completely preventable disease.

    Comments are closed.