With the recent news that Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning has colon cancer, we talked with Dr. Grant Hutchins, a gastroenterologist at the Nebraska Medical Center, to get more information about the disease.
Question: What is colon cancer?
Answer: Cancer involving the colon and rectum arising from adenomatous polyps.
Q: How common is the disease?
A: Colon cancer is a leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. in men and women. So it's common.
Q: Why are screenings important?
A: There has been a downward trend in colorectal cancer deaths and it directly relates to an increased awareness of the disease and an increased awareness of the importance of early screenings. Screenings can detect polyps, the precursors in colon cancer.
Q: Who should get screened for colon cancer and when?
A: We begin colorectal screenings at age 50 in men and women who have an average risk and do not have a family history or adenomatous polyps. We start at age 40 in African Americans because we have identified that African Americans tend to develop the disease earlier than their Caucasian counterparts.
Q: What are treatment options?
A: If you have been diagnosed with colon cancer the only way to cure it is to surgically remove the cancer segment of the colon. After that, the patient has an opportunity to receive chemotherapy, which is called adjuvant chemotherapy.
Q: Who does colon cancer mostly affect?
A: It almost equally affects men and women, though, it tends to side to men.
Q: What is the most information people should know about colon cancer?
A: I stress to my patients that they need to understand their family health history, get screened at the appropriate age and alert other family members that they need to be screened as well if something is found. Also, people with a family history of colon cancer need earlier screening.