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Get screened for colon cancer, doctor urges

Friday, March 07, 2014    

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CONSULTANT gastroenterologist at the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI), Dr Mike Mills, is appealing to Jamaicans to get screened for colon cancer, as this can save lives.

"Cancer of the colon is a disease that can be prevented by taking steps at the appropriate age. There are risk factors that can be identified. Everyone is at risk for colon cancer. Once you hit age 45 to 50, your risk of colon cancer increases and this is when we start to institute screening," Dr Mills said.

He was addressing a Jamaica Information Service (JIS) Think Tank Session on Tuesday to launch Colon Cancer Awareness Month, which is being observed during March.

Dr Mills explained that through screening, the condition can be identified at an early stage and interventions made to prevent complications.

He said that colon polyps, which develop along the lining of the colon, usually develop into cancer and if caught early can be removed by colonoscopy which is one type of screening.

The gastroenterologist outlined other screening methods such as the faecal occult blood test, barium enema and sigmoidoscopy; however, he insisted that the colonoscopy was the "gold standard test" and that it was highly recommended because it allowed for the immediate removal of polyps.

Dr Mills noted that although age was the number one risk factor in colon cancer, others also play a role. "Genetics plays a significant role as well. We find that for a quarter of patients there is a family history of colon cancer... the more individuals in the family that have colon cancer, the stronger your risk profile for colon cancer," he explained.

He said it was very important to identify the cancer profile of one's family (immediate or extended).

Dr Mills added that if a family member had been previously diagnosed, the age of diagnosis should be used to determine the age of screening for other family members.

He recommended that other members of the family be screened 10 years before attaining the age at which the older family member was diagnosed, as polyps take that approximate time to develop into cancer.

— JIS

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