The Facts Hispanics Need to Know About Colon Cancer
OAK BROOK, Ill.–September 23, 2008— Each year approximately 150,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with colon cancer and nearly 50,000 will die from the disease. All men and women are at risk for colon cancer. However, because of disproportionate screening rates, minorities, including Hispanics, are more likely to be diagnosed with colon cancer in advanced stages. Survival rates after diagnosis are also lower for Hispanics and may be due to less access to timely and high-quality treatment. The American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (ASGE), representing the specialists in colon cancer screening, advises Hispanics to speak to their physicians about getting screened for colon cancer.
“Colon cancer is a largely preventable disease. Colonoscopy screening can detect polyps and remove them before they turn into cancer,” said Marcia R. Cruz-Correa, MD, PhD, FASGE, American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy. “There is a myth in the Hispanic community that colon cancer is a man’s disease. Colon cancer is an equal opportunity disease that does not discriminate against gender or race. I encourage all Hispanics age 50 and over to speak with their physician about colon cancer screening. If you have a family history of the disease, you may need to begin screening before age 50.”
Colon cancer affects both men and women. Your age, not your gender, is the single most important risk factor for colon cancer. According to statistics from the American Cancer Society, colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among Hispanic men and the third leading cause of cancer deaths among women. The death rates due to colon cancer between 1994 and 2003 have decreased for Hispanic men, but have not changed for Hispanic women. Both men and women should undergo testing for the disease starting at age 50. Most insurance covers screening at age 50. If you are 65 or older, screening is covered by Medicare. For many people, a referral is not required.
Colorectal cancer, also referred to as colon cancer, is cancer of the colon or rectum and is the third-leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. for men and women combined. Colorectal cancer is the second most diagnosed cancer in Hispanic Americans. Some people are at a higher risk for the disease because of age, lifestyle or personal and family medical history. When people are diagnosed with colon cancer at an early stage, the five-year survival rate is 90 percent, which is why screening for prevention and early detection is so important.
Colon Cancer Screening
Colonoscopy plays an important role in colon cancer prevention because precancerous polyps can be removed when they are discovered during the procedure. Polyps are growths on the lining of the colon or rectum that may become cancer. These polyps can be removed to prevent cancer from occurring. Colonoscopy, when performed by a well-trained endoscopist, gastroenterologist or surgeon, is the most effective screening test.
Colon Cancer Symptoms
Colon cancer is a silent killer. Usually there are no symptoms to rely on, and when there are symptoms, the cancer may be at an advanced stage. When colon cancer is caught early, most people are cured. However, when colon cancer is detected at later stages, the chances for cure are much lower.
Although colon cancer often has no symptoms, warning signs that may indicate colon cancer include blood in your stools, narrower than normal stools, unexplained abdominal pain, unexplained change in bowel habits, unexplained anemia, and unexplained weight loss. These symptoms may be caused by other benign diseases such as hemorrhoids, inflammation in the colon or irritable bowel syndrome. If you have any of these symptoms, however, you should be evaluated by your physician.
A recent study in the Archives of Internal Medicine (June 23, 2008) also cited language as a barrier in regards to racial discrepancies and colon cancer screening. ASGE offers patient brochures in Spanish for physicians to order at www.asge.org. The Society also offers a colon cancer awareness Web site, www.screen4coloncancer.org, that has content in English, Spanish and Chinese, including Spanish-language patient education videos.
Here are a few important facts Hispanics need to know about colon cancer:
- Hispanic Americans are less likely to get screened for colon cancer than either Caucasians or African Americans.
- Starting at age 50, all men and women should begin having colon cancer screening tests.
- Some people are at higher risk for the disease because of age, lifestyle or personal and family medical history. However, colon cancer affects men and women alike.
- Tell your health care professional if you have a personal or family history of colorectal cancer, colorectal polyps or inflammatory bowel disease. Then ask which test you should have and when you should begin colon cancer screening.
- There are many obstacles to colon cancer screening, including reluctance to talk about colon cancer and embarrassment about having tests that are perceived as invasive, such as colonoscopy, or that require stool samples.
About the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy
Founded in 1941, the mission of the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy is to be the leader in advancing patient care and digestive health by promoting excellence in gastrointestinal endoscopy. ASGE, with more than 10,000 physician members worldwide, promotes the highest standards for endoscopic training and practice, fosters endoscopic research, recognizes distinguished contributions to endoscopy, and is the foremost resource for endoscopic education. Visit www.asge.org and www.screen4coloncancer.org for more information.
Endoscopy is performed by specially-trained physicians called endoscopists using the most current technology to diagnose and treat diseases of the gastrointestinal tract. Using flexible, thin tubes called endoscopes, endoscopists are able to access the human digestive tract without incisions via natural orifices. Endoscopes are designed with high-intensity lighting and fitted with precision devices that allow viewing and treatment of the gastrointestinal system. In many cases, screening or treatment of conditions can be delivered via the endoscope without the need for further sedation, treatment or hospital stay.