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Ask the Expert How can I catch polyps or colorectal cancer early?
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 Christine Emmick, MD (Click here for more info)
In the United States colorectal cancer is the third most common malignancy diagnosed in both men and women and is the second most common cancer killer. It has been established that most colorectal cancers arise from adenomatous polyps (polyps that are visible protrusions that can develop on the mucosal surface of the colon or rectum). Early detection and removal of these polyps has been shown to reduce death from colorectal cancer. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, in February, reported a 53% reduction in colorectal cancer deaths in patients with appropriate colorectal cancer screening and surveillance in the form of colonoscopy.

There are many screening modalities available but the gold standard is colonoscopy which allows for careful evaluation of the entire colon and removal of polyps where appropriate. Current recommendations are for patients to begin colorectal screening with a colonoscopy at age 50. People with a strong family history of colorectal cancer, a history of inflammatory bowel disease, or with new symptoms (significant change in bowel habits, rectal bleeding, iron deficiency anemia) may require colonoscopy earlier. In patients diagnosed with adenomatous polyps, surveillance colonoscopy is typically indicated every 1-3 years. In patients who do not have polyps and who develop no new symptoms, repeat colonoscopy is usually performed in 10 years barring any new symptoms or problems. Colorectal cancer is truly a preventable disease with the appropriate screening and intervention

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