There are more jokes and humorous videos on the internet about colonoscopy than about mammography or cervical cancer screening. The reason is quite obvious. Most people do not like the idea of people inserting long tubes and cameras in the rear end of our anatomy. That is where the problem lies. Out of fear and embarrassment, we ignore that area and by the time we pick up cancer it is too late.
Alberta Cancer Board, Canadian Cancer Society and Alberta Health Services have been very aggressive in promoting the Alberta Colorectal Cancer Screening Program. You must have read about it in the newspapers, heard about it on the radio and seen the news on TV. The question is: what have you done about it? Are you ready for it?
The program aims to save lives by improving the prevention and early detection of colorectal cancer in Albertans between the ages of 50 and 74. The sad part is only 10 to 20 per cent of Canadians come forward to have some kind of screening test done for their colon. More women would go for mammography and cervical cancer screening than colorectal screening. And men are worse when it comes to screening for colorectal and prostate cancer.
Men and women are almost equally at risk of getting colorectal cancer. There is a less than three minutes video on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/realmenscreen) titled: “Had your butt checked out lately? – The Canadian Cancer Society asked men this question.” It is humorous and educational. Check it out!
Colorectal cancer is the fourth most common cancer. The average lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer is six per cent. It is the second leading cause of cancer death in Canada. It is expected that colorectal cancer screening will decrease both, incidence and mortality.
Most people are scared as soon as they hear the word colonoscopy. It is important to remember that colonoscopy is not the only test for screening although it is the best test and is considered as gold standard against which other screening tests are compared. In certain circumstances (high risk patients) you do not have a choice but go through a colonoscopy for diagnosis, prevention and treatment of certain conditions.
You are at a high risk of getting colorectal cancer if you have a family history of colorectal cancer or polyps, have a personal history of ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s colitis
and have had polyps or previous history of colorectal cancer.
If you have symptoms like rectal bleeding then you don’t have a choice – you need a test. Depending on your age, the test may be a flexible sigmoidoscopy in the office or colonoscopy at the hospital. For example, six per cent of the patients who say they are bleeding from hemorrhoids have colon or rectal cancer.
Every individual is at risk of developing colorectal cancer. If you have no symptoms, have no family history of colorectal cancer and you are 50 years or older then you do not have to go through colonoscopy. You have a choice of doing stool tests for occult blood yearly or bi-annually, flexible sigmoidoscopy in an office every five years or combine stool test and flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years.
Every test for screening has advantages and disadvantages. None of them are full proof. And they vary from very invasive (colonoscopy) to least invasive (stool test). If you fall into high risk category then colonoscopy is the way to go. If you are asymptomatic person with an average risk then you have a choice of tests mentioned earlier.
So don’t be scared, talk to your doctor and have your butt checked out!
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