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Colon Cancer

Testing for Colon Cancer

03/30/2011

Question:

It seems that people have an increased risk of developing essentially any type of cancer as they age.  I`m mostly concerned about colon cancer.  Are there any specific things that can be done or avoided to reduce risk?  Is colonoscopy the only way I can be tested?

Answer:

Some lifestyle events are associated with lower risk of colon cancer. These include diets low in red meat, maintaining a lean body weight, and getting exercise. Regularly taking aspirin or other so called NSAID type drugs (celebrex for example) also lowers risk of colon cancers and precancerous polyps, but the drugs have risk (ulcers and bleeding with aspirin, cardiovascular events with celebrex), so they are not recommended for use only for this purpose.

Colonoscopy is the most reliable way to get tested. It is not perfect, and some lesions can be missed. Virtual colonoscopy, or a CT scan of the colon, is an alternative. It can miss smaller lesions, and still requires the same laxative preparation as a colonoscopy. There may be a role for stool DNA tests as an adjunctive test in years following colonoscopy (or as an alternative for individuals who are not willing to have a colonoscopy). But these tests are not yet approved by the FDA, and more research will be needed to fully define their utility in clinical practice.

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Response by:

Sanford  Markowitz, MD, PhD Sanford Markowitz, MD, PhD
Professor of Medicine
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University