As you age, your body undergoes many changes. New problems may surface, forcing you to take more care of your health. Apart from overall health issues such as maintaining a healthy weight, BP, cholesterol and sugar levels, men may require to be aware of certain problems that could specifically affect them in old age. During this men’s awareness month, we at Greater Houston Gastroenterology call upon all men over 50 to get a regular and timely screening of certain conditions that they may be prone to.
Regular screening serves as a vital tool in detecting many health problems even when one seems to feel healthy and fit. It ensures early diagnosis, effective management of the disease and better recovery. Based on the susceptibility to a particular disease, many screening tests have been recommended for different age groups. At age 50 and over, men are advised to screen for colorectal cancer. Why not check earlier for this cancer, you may ask – because over 90% of cases of colon cancer develop in men over the age of 50. However, a family history of the cancer may mandate screening at a younger age.
According to the American Cancer Society, cancer of the colon (large intestine) is considered the second most common cause of death from a cancer, with men having a higher risk than women. This greater susceptibility could be attributed to certain lifestyle factors that men are more likely to indulge in such as drinking, smoking and living on a high-fat diet. The cancer often starts as a polyp, a growth on the wall of the colon, and has the potential to turn cancerous over time. Identified at an early stage, these polyps can be easily removed and cancer can be prevented.
This is where regular screening comes into play. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends regular colon cancer screening from age 50 to 75 using the following diagnostic tools:
- Fecal occult blood testing (FOBT): Stools are tested for the presence of blood, which can indicate bleeding polyps. If performed alone, USPSTF recommends yearly testing. Research shows that regular FOBT can lower the mortality rates associated with colon cancer by 15 to 33%.
- Sigmoidoscopy: A sigmoidoscope, a narrow lighted tube with a camera is inserted through the anus into the rectum and sigmoid colon (lower part of the colon) to view and remove any abnormal growths. This method should be performed along with FOBT once every 5 years and every 3 years for those with an average risk for the cancer. Sigmoidoscopy has been found to lower the chances of death due to colon cancer by 60 to 70%.
- Colonoscopy: Similar to a sigmoidoscope, the colonoscope is a lighted tube with lens that can be extended up the entire colon (reaching parts that the sigmoidoscope cannot reach) through the anal opening to view and remove abnormal growths. Performed every 10 years, colonoscopy can lower death rates by 60 to 70%.
This shows that regular screening is one of the most powerful tools that can prevent colon cancer. During the tests, suspicious growths and polyps can be removed before they can develop into cancer, detecting cancer at an early stage, when it is easier to treat and has higher rates of success.
So as you blow out those 50 candles, wish yourself many more and promise yourself better health with regular screening for colorectal cancer.
At Greater Houston Gastroenterology, we provide specialized services and treatments for a wide range of gastrointestinal conditions. Our dedicated clinical staff and physician assistants are available to assist in delivering high-quality treatment and expert care. As the largest GI group in the greater Houston area, we offer 17 locations for your convenience.