National Cancer Control Month, which is observed throughout April, is a good time to have screenings and other preventive procedures done to identify cancerous conditions early.
People with a history of the disease in their families can benefit from regular colonoscopies as can adults over age 50, who may not have a medical history that points to colorectal cancers, which include colon and rectal diseases.
A study by University of Pennsylvania researchers found that colonoscopies done on people with an average risk could reduce the development of late-stage cancers by as much as 70 percent.
The focus of the study was whether colonoscopies done as long as a decade before the discovery of an advanced case influenced on the outcome of such cases. A second concern among the researchers was the effectiveness of colonoscopies on the right side of the colon, which is not as accessible and frequently contains pre-cancerous areas that are more difficult to identify.
The Pennsylvania research, which was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, also considered the use of screening sigmoidoscopy. This less invasive and simpler procedure only examines the part of the large intestine that is closest to the rectum. The researchers determined that sigmoidoscopies can result in a large reduction of late-stage cancer in much of the colon, but not as much in the right side of the colon.
The study also concluded that home testing kits to uncover blood in stool samples – called fecal occult blood tests – is often as effective as colonoscopies, study leader Chyke Doubeni, M.D., of the University of Pennsylvania, told MedlinePlus. Blood in the stools is a common symptom that may indicate the presence of disease.
According to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, people between ages 50 and 75 should have screenings for colon cancer at regular intervals. They advise a colonoscopy be done every 10 years or that a fecal occult blood test be done every year. A third alternative is to have a sigmoidoscopy every five years combined with a home stools test every three years. People with a higher than average risk, including those with a family history of cancer, should be screening more frequently.
Eating a high-fiber diet and taking a dietary supplement such as Nutranet from Dr. Newton’s Naturals, which helps support a healthy intestinal tract, is another preventive measure against developing colorectal cancers.