Last week I hugged my dad and thanked him for having his latest colonoscopy as scheduled. That might sound like a strange thing to say thank you for, but trust me, it is a pretty big deal. You see, my dad had a precancerous polyp removed from his colon during his first colonoscopy about eight years ago, and that may have saved his life.
According to the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (ASGE), large precancerous polyps like my dad’s are more likely to become cancer than small, benign polyps. Patients who have already had one polyp are also more likely to develop polyps in the future.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States. However, data from the National Polyp Study shows that the risk of dying from colorectal cancer is reduced by up to 92% if a patient has any existing polyps removed in an initial colonoscopy and receives recommended follow-up exams.
To be honest, my dad dreads his scheduled exams, but because he is considered high risk he follows his doctor’s recommendations. During his latest colonoscopy, his doctor removed another large polyp and sent it to the pathologist for examination. The report came back this week and the polyp was benign. That is one more polyp that will not have a chance to develop into cancer, and for that, our family is very thankful.
A very sobering event reminds me of just how thankful I am. This week, as I celebrated my dad’s good report, my friend’s father died from colon cancer. I am saddened by the loss of this kind man. I do not know if he was screened, but according to the ASGE only 41% of Americans report being tested for colorectal cancer. Compare that to a screening rate among women of 86% for breast cancer and you can see that awareness makes a difference.
The month of March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. If you are over 50 years of age, or if you have a family history of colorectal cancer or polyps, please talk to your doctor about a colonoscopy. According to the ASGE, approximately 50,000 people die from colorectal cancer each year, but colorectal cancer almost always develops from a precancerous polyp and is therefore one of the world’s most preventable diseases. Share this information with the ones you love, because early detection saves lives.
ASGE “Understanding Polyps and Their Treatment”
Charlene Laino, “Removing Colon Polyps Cuts Death Risk”, WebMD
CDC “March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month”