Research indicates that colorectal carcinoma develops from pre-cancerous, benign growths on the inner lining of the colon. When detected early, polyps can be totally removed, thereby preventing the future malignant transformation. It is for this reason that the digestive health specialists from the American College of Gastroenterology encourage those at risk to be screened by the technique of colonoscopy.
There is a distinction between the ability to prevent colorectal carcinoma and the ability to simply detect it once established. March Awareness Month is focused on screening and prevention. Only last month, the New England Journal of Medicine highlighted the protective effect of screening colonoscopy to reduce deaths by more than 50 percent through detection of polyps and their subsequent removal during the same procedure.
Present ACG guidelines recommend initial screening for average risk populations at 50 years of age, and at 45 years in the African-American population, who appear to have an earlier age of onset. Higher-risk populations such as those with first-degree relatives who have a history of polyps or colorectal carcinoma should be screened at an appropriately earlier age. Obesity, too, has now also been recognized as an increased risk factor.
I encourage individuals to openly discuss this disease and how to prevent it with their health-care provider. A referral to a trained colonoscopist may prove to be a life-saving undertaking.
Alabama Governor for the American College of Gastroenterology