VA Maryland Health Care System
Colorectal Cancer Screening
Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States. The American Cancer Society estimates that 137,000 Americans will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer and 50,310 Americans will die from colorectal cancer in 2014 alone. To put it in perspective, the yearly death toll from colorectal cancer in America exceeds the total number of American combat deaths during the entire Vietnam War. This trend doesn’t have to continue!
Colorectal cancer death is largely preventable with appropriate screening tests. Most colorectal cancers start as a growth called a polyp. If polyps are found and removed before they turn into cancer, then many colorectal cancers can be prevented. Additionally, if colorectal cancer is caught early by screening, before symptoms develop, then it can usually be cured. Screening is typically recommended for all between the ages of 50 and 75 years.
The two most commonly used screening tests are annual stool tests that detect microscopic blood (“stool cards” or “FIT kit”), and colonoscopy. A colonoscopy is a test where a doctor advances a slender tube with a light and camera at the end through the colon. This test is usually performed under sedation and is done every 10 years for average-risk people. Both of these forms of colorectal cancer screening have been shown to be beneficial; however, we do not know which is best. In order to help answer this question, the VA Maryland Health Care System is participating in a national VA research study comparing these two screening strategies.
If you are interested in participating in colorectal cancer screening, please discuss this important issue with your medical provider. For more information about the colorectal cancer screening research, please call the Gastroenterology office for the VA Maryland Health Care System at 1-800-463-6295, ext. 7299. An average of 40 patients are diagnosed with colorectal cancer each year at the VA Maryland Health Care System. Please don’t be the next. Make this March the month you decide to get screened!
How can I prevent colorectal cancer?
- Routine colorectal cancer screening!
- Regular exercise
- Stop smoking
- Eat lots of vegetables, fruits and whole grains; limit intake of red meats and alcohol