Colon cancer remains the third most common cancer in both men and women. However, only one in three eligible Americans begin to be screened for colon cancer at the recommended age of fifty-years-old. What is stopping people from taking the lifesaving step of screening? Unscreened individuals may avoid the procedure out of fear of the unknown, or the patient may feel like they are not at risk. Here, I’ll explain the importance of screening and the exciting new developments in detecting and treating colon cancer. By Jerald Wishner MD, FACS, FASCRS, Director of the Minimally Invasive and Colorectal Surgery Program at Northern Westchester Hospital.
One of the most common killers is colon cancer, yet fewer than half of eligible Americans get a colonoscopy. It’s a statistic that is really bothersome to me. A colonoscopy is the gold standard of colon cancer screening, and the research proves it saves lives.
Colon cancer begins in polyps inside the colon, and it can take five to eight years to develop. The promise of a colonoscopy is that, if pre-cancerous polyps are found, the doctor can remove them during the procedure. With mammograms, the hope is that you’ll find cancer early; Colonoscopy takes that a step further by actually preventing cancer from developing in the first place by removing these precancerous polyps.
Preventing a Precancerous Polyp from Becoming Colon Cancer
150,000 new cases of colon & rectal cancer are diagnosed each year in the United States. Screening to identify early stage tumors or precancerous polyps is critical to optimize the chance to cure this otherwise fatal disease. Colonoscopy is the optimal way to facilitate this. Despite its excellent record for safety and detection of disease, most studies show only 50% of Americans are screened appropriately. Common reasons for lack of screening are fear of the procedure, fear of the prep, embarrassment and lack of information about the safety, need and timing of screening.
A recent article in MD News chronicles the latest move by NWH to ensure that colorectal surgery and other laparoscopic procedures performed at Northern Westchester Hospital is more precise than even more. Using the da Vinci Surgical System Robot is paramount for NWH surgeons. This pioneering instrument is proving to be an appreciated top choice for the department, and perhaps a game changer for doctors at NWH in Westchester County.