Colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States.
Disease risk increases with age, but those of certain ethnic backgrounds are being diagnosed with the condition at younger ages than ever before, say authors of a new study from the University of Missouri School of Medicine.
On average, African Americans, Hispanics and Pacific Islanders were diagnosed between the ages of 64 and 68, while whites were typically diagnosed at age 72, according to the study. When diagnosed, minority groups also had more advanced stages of cancer.
Researchers suggested that lower screening rates and lower income levels were two factors leading to the detection rates varying among cultures.
Dr. Sakie Hussain, a medical director of the endoscopy center at Advocate Trinity Hospital in Chicago, is adamant about early detection. Colon cancer is 100 percent preventable and he doesn’t see why anyone should ever have to die from the disease.
“When you have breast cancer, the first cells they find in a biopsy are cancerous, but in a colonoscopy exam, when we find hybrid cells called polyps, it is not cancerous,” says Dr. Hussain. “Once we remove them, you no longer have to worry about anything.”
Symptoms can include a change in bowel habits, rectal bleeding, weakness and fatigue or unintended weight loss.
“A colonoscopy is not painful,” says Dr. Hussain. “We watch it very carefully and we don’t start the test until we are sure you are sleeping. Ninety-percent of our patients wake up and don’t realize that the colonoscopy has already been done.”
The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends regular screenings starting at 50 years old.