Letter: Doctor urges cancer screenings
Just as October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and February is the American Heart Awareness month, March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness month. I recommend to you and all of your readers to speak with their primary care doctor about being screened for colon/rectal cancer. Colorectal cancer rates have been decreasing over the last two decades which partly reflects an increase in screening allowing us to detect and remove colorectal polyps before they become cancer.
Colon cancer affects the large intestine which includes the colon and rectum and is the second leading cause of cancer death in Tennessee. It affects both men and women and all racial groups. The estimated number of people to be diagnosed in Tennessee with colon cancer in 2014 is 3,030 people with approximately 1,220 deaths.
Colon cancer is one of the most preventable types of cancer that we treat in our practice. It is not only preventable, but also curable when detected at an early stage. We know that the risk of colon cancer increases with age, especially over the age of 50 (age 45 for African-Americans). The most important way to prevent colon cancer is getting your screen starting at age 50 for average risk individuals and younger if you have a family history or if you are of African-American descent. Most colon cancers we know start from benign polyps. Therefore, we have a chance not only of detecting but curing this disease. By screening and early removable of the polyps, we can eliminate most colon cancers.
There are several types of screening tests now for colon cancer. These include testing stools for hidden blood, flexible sigmoidoscopy, and a colonoscopy. In Tennessee, insurance companies should pay for screening by any of these tests. There are newer tests being developed, including DNA stool testing and virtual colonoscopy; however, these have not been developed fully for screening.
I highly recommend that you speak with your primary care provider today to determine which of these tests is best for you. This will allow you to prevent colon cancer or detect the disease at an early stage where it can be more than 90 percent curable.
Dr. William E. Lyles
(Dr. Lyles works at Smoky Mountain Gastroenterology, 355 Blount Memorial Physician Office Building in Maryville.)