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Colon cancer screening saves lives, but more need to do it
July 5th, 2011
05:21 PM ET

Colon cancer screening saves lives, but more need to do it

Fewer people are being diagnosed with colorectal cancer according to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  It shows that the number of cases slipped 3.4% from 2003 to 2007, an annual decrease of about 66,000.  The number of people dying from colorectal cancer also is declining - by 3% a year, the study finds.

CDC director Dr. Thomas Frieden calls this “significant progress."

“This is good news. We now understand that colon cancer screening can save your life, and more and more Americans are taking advantage of it.”

The report attributes half of the lives saved to an increase in screening (primarily by colonoscopy) and about one-third (35%) to people reducing their risk factors by losing weight and kicking the smoking habit, for instance.

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer among men and women combined, according to the American Cancer Society, which estimates about 49,380 deaths from it will occur this year.

Frieden says nearly two-thirds of Americans aged 50 to 75 had some form of colon cancer screening.  The report shows the number of Americans getting screened has been going up steadily since 1985.

Frieden calls the increase “remarkable” but he says he is “concerned it is beginning to level off.”

Beginning at age 50, both men and women of average risk for developing colorectal cancer should get screened according to the American Cancer Society.

What happens in a colonoscopy?

Frieden says he has a family history of colon cancer, so he had his first colonoscopy 10 years ago at age 40. During his next scheduled screening, which occurred sometime since the end of 2010,  Frieden says, his doctor found "four polyps, all of them were removed, two of them were rather large, but none of them were cancerous [yet].”  He credits the procedure with saving his life.

Polyps are small growths that are common in adults. Many are harmless, but most colon cancer starts as a polyp. Removing the polyps prevents them from becoming  tumors.

One-third of Americans who should be screened for colon cancer aren't, so there is room for improvement there, according to the CDC.  Frieden says  many of the 22 million people aged 50 to 75 who have not been screened have never been asked to take the test by their physician.

“Doctors, nurses and other health care providers can do a lot in making colon cancer screening routine,” Frieden says.  “As more people understand that colon cancer screening can save your life, I think the resistance to colon cancer screening goes down.”

Another factor preventing people from getting screened is what a patient needs to do before a colonoscopy.

“There is no doubt the preparation is unpleasant… but it’s a whole lot more unpleasant to die young from a preventable illness,” Frieden says.  “Screening works and the more people get screened the lower death rates are going to go.”

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Filed under: Cancer • CDC • Men's Health • Women's Health

soundoff (121 Responses)
  1. fjawodfc

    "We now understand that colon cancer screening can save your life..."

    Uh, yeah. Doesn't that apply to all cancer screening?

    July 5, 2011 at 20:09 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Not necessarily. There have been studies done with many kinds of cancer and various screening procedures. Some have shown that some of the tests for some types of cancer do not reduce mortality.

      July 6, 2011 at 09:21 | Report abuse |
    • danigirl

      Come on people – the prep leaves nothing to be desired but if you have a good doctor, you're knocked out during the procedure and wake up with a juicebox in you hand. I am a colon cancer survivor – had to have a resection when I was 39 yrs. I've had many colonoscopies in the last 5 years – deal with it – it's better than alternative right! There are many things you can do to make the prep more comfortable; plus, the thought of a huge breakfast the next day puts a huge smile on my face – especially knowing that I am still alive to spend time with my friends and family.

      July 6, 2011 at 09:54 | Report abuse |
    • BRBSanDiego

      The garden hose with camera attached going up your butt is not a pleasant experience. 1st you spend an entire day and night drinking about a gallon of horrible liquid which gives you constant diarhea all night. The next day is shot to hell with blood draws, more exams, and finally a sedative when your turn is up. Next you go into a spaceship room with all sorts of equipment and four people you can't recognize because of the outfits and head/face gear. I was informed, so asked for the biggest dose of "knockout drugs" I could handle – the nurse said "good idea". Woke up with a huge hangover that lasted all afternoon while I dozed on and off. Didn't sleep well that night at all. It took four days to have a bowel movement because of the evacuated digestive sytem. I felt tired, weak, and hungry for three days. I will not ever go through that procedure again; it is just not worth the 4.2% chance that something will be found. I have better odds in Vegas. PS – it cost almost $4000. The prep nurse told me that they can do ten procedures in each room per day. They have three hose up the butt rooms, so figure $120,000 per day.

      July 6, 2011 at 13:42 | Report abuse |
    • BRBSanDiego

      The garden hose with camera attached going up your butt is not a pleasant experience. 1st you spend an entire day and night drinking about a gallon of horrible liquid which gives you constant diarhea all night. The next day is shot to hell with blood draws, more exams, and finally a sedative when your turn is up. Next you go into a spaceship room with all sorts of equipment and four people you can't recognize because of the outfits and head/face gear. I was informed, so asked for the biggest dose of "knockout drugs" I could handle – the nurse said "good idea". Woke up with a huge hangover that lasted all afternoon while I dozed on and off. Didn't sleep well that night at all. It took four days to have a bowel movement because of the evacuated digestive sytem. I felt tired, weak, and hungry for three days. I will not ever go through that procedure again; it is just not worth the 4.2% chance that something will be found and if something turns up 95% of the time it is not serious. I have better odds in Vegas. PS – it cost almost $4000. The prep nurse told me that they can do ten procedures in each room per day. They have three hose up the butt rooms, so figure $120,000 per day.

      July 6, 2011 at 16:40 | Report abuse |
    • Elizabeth

      To BRB: since you are trying to scare people from getting this easy test, I'd like to scare you with what my husband went through. One day at work he realized that he needed to go to the bathroom, but nothing would work. He came home early that Friday, and went to the ER. That night, his oxygen level fell very low, even on oxygen. Because it was the weekend, they had to keep him on all sorts of tubes and wires until Monday. The doctor couldn't get the scope through the tiny opening. The next day, they removed 3/4 of my husband's colon, and found out that he has stage 3C colon cancer. It took two weeks to recover from surgery, and he couldn't eat, so the IV sugar bag also raised his blood sugar level. He got blood clots. He got infections in the wounds (because the contents of the bowel had been leaking into his abdomen). The pain was incredible; he was shaking with it, and oxygen continued to be low, and heartbeat very fast, but he was in such distress that he couldn't find the call button to tell the nurses most of the time. Finally his intestines started to work, and he had the most disgusting vomit of his life. Then he had to go to rehabilitation because he was too weak to walk. After two weeks of physical therapy and oxygen, he slowly got stronger. But for the next two months he had to have his wounds cleaned and packed twice a day with wet/dry packing (by my daughter and I, with a nurse checking every few days) because the infected wounds needed to heal slowly. Then the elevated CEA (blood enzyme that shows colon cancer) showed more cancer growth, and at CT scan showed the blood clots in the liver, and he had to start having daily shots of blood thinner and start chemo therapy. Then the chemo therapy reduced his blood counts and platelet counts too much, so he couldn't have all the chemo treatments, and the cancer spread. Then he has started a new chemo treatment that is working much better, but makes him hurt a lot, and be very fatigued, and he has to go to work to get health insurance. But even though this chemo is working better, we do not know how the cells will respond, and the liver clot is still there. Yes, he could die. I'm sure that you would prefer all of this instead of getting a slight amount of discomfort for a couple of days in that darned colonoscopy, wouldn't you? And I'll bet that you would rather spend your inheritance on treatments instead of retirement?

      July 6, 2011 at 22:33 | Report abuse |
  2. Fadka

    No mention of virtual colonoscopy?

    July 5, 2011 at 20:30 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jim

      Virtual colonoscopies, are not yet perfected to the point they can spot very small polyps, but they are better than no screening at all. Optical colonoscopies are still the preferred screening method. I've had two of them, and I don't consider either the preparation or the procedure to be very bothersome.

      July 5, 2011 at 20:53 | Report abuse |
    • andrew

      The insurance company's will love to add that to another battery of tests.Of course, the doctors will eventually say "well, the virtual doesn't really show for sure, so lets just do a colonoscopy to be safe".

      July 6, 2011 at 16:38 | Report abuse |
    • BRBSanDiego

      Only the president and vice-president get the virtual treatment because they don't want either of them to be unconscious for over 24 hours. Oh yeah – you can't afford the virtual deal.

      July 6, 2011 at 16:44 | Report abuse |
    • Paula

      Virtual Colonoscopies are great but if they find a polyp you'll just have to repeat the actual colonoscopy to get it removed. You still have to do the same prep for both. So I would say just go for the regular colonoscopy!

      July 12, 2011 at 18:48 | Report abuse |
  3. pacman357

    Colonoscopy unpleasant? Listen, my ex-wife is unpleasant. Stuck in an airport for three days straight is unpleasant. Sharing office space with someone who has a chonic gas problem is unpleasant. A colonoscopy is a process only the devil could have designed. After drinking a few gallons of what must be drain cleaner AND taking several laxatives, per the clinic's instructions, I would have immediately sought the help of a priest for either last rites or an exorcism had I known how many times I would be scrambling to the bathroom, whereupon I would commence a process that ultimately had me praying for death several times. Add to it the indiginity of the testing itself, and additional discomfort, and I can only surmise that I must have done something really bad in a previous life.

    You want people to get tested more regularly? Stop stealing from Torquemada's handbook when practicing medicine, and come up with a reasonable way to test human beings.

    July 5, 2011 at 20:46 | Report abuse | Reply
    • william

      I have a buddy who ignored advice to have follow up the year after several serious polyps were found and removed. Four years went by until the problems arrived. He now has class 4 colorectal cancer with a 6% chance to live 5 years. He's 53. Suck it up and get checked, boys and girls.

      July 5, 2011 at 20:53 | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      You are going to die no matter what you do.
      You don't have to be a science experiment, too.
      I'd rather die young, than be a55-phukkd with a giant d!ldo-shaped camera,
      after force-feeding myself radioactive laxatives.

      July 5, 2011 at 21:25 | Report abuse |
    • beadlesaz

      Pacman357 – The preparation is nothing compared to treatment for the disease. I didn't have colon cancer. I had anal cancer (the cancer that Farrah Fawcett died of). It was a tumor on my anus which I mistakenly thought was a hemorrhoid. My doctor couldn't be bothered verifying what it was so the diagnosis was delayed two months while I waited for an appt with the rectal surgeon. The best test for anal cancer is a Digital Rectal Exam – i.e., doctor inserts a gloved finger up your butt. People don't want to have that done either. It's unpleasant, it's embarrassing – but it isn't painful. What IS painful is radiation burns removing the skin in your groin area – front and back – for 3 months. Body waste elimination is frequently accompanied by the sounds of screams.

      So put your big boy boxers on – and go thru the tests that are available now.

      July 5, 2011 at 21:28 | Report abuse |
    • andybud

      @mike – you're an idiot.

      But you knew that.

      July 5, 2011 at 21:34 | Report abuse |
    • beenthere

      You are either a total wimp, or have never really had a colonoscopy. You have blown the test prep waaaayyyy out of proportion. Plus, the test itself is nothing but you taking a nice nap! Do not discourage others from getting this test with your false information....this test saves lives....it did mine!

      July 5, 2011 at 22:05 | Report abuse |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      You must be the world's biggest wiener. I've had a colonoscopy and it was a piece of cake.

      Let me tell you something else, bub, since it's obvious you haven't got the first clue: dying of colon cancer is terrible. And being treated for advanced colon cancer is horrible. My mother-in-law never would get a colonoscopy. When she was finally diagnosed, the cancer was advanced enough that she was left with two choices: have a large portion removed and wear a colostomy bag for the rest of her life, or have a large portion removed, have major surgery to reconnect the colon, and have cancer treatments for a year.

      You are doing everyone a huge disservice by acting as though a colonoscopy is the worst possible thing in the world.

      Your comments aren't funny, they're pathetic.

      July 6, 2011 at 09:14 | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      Tom Tom: You forgot the 3rd choice: euthanasia.
      Doctors like to coerce people into believing that the only end-of-life choices are revenue-generating science projects.
      In fact, you can just die, without the loss of dignity or financial devastation to one's family.
      The only problem with that one is doctors cannot monetize that choice. That is why it is illegal.
      But it is still an option. A 12-ga is painless.

      July 6, 2011 at 11:52 | Report abuse |
    • ser

      how much weight do you think you could lose during the preperation for the colonoscopy?

      July 6, 2011 at 12:23 | Report abuse |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Mike: there are no words to adequately describe the depths of your stupidity.

      July 6, 2011 at 13:11 | Report abuse |
    • Elizabeth

      See my reply to BRB above. You have no experience of unpleasant at all if you have not had colon cancer. Believe me, the cancer is FAR more unpleasant than this little test that they give you twilight sleep during.

      July 6, 2011 at 22:41 | Report abuse |
    • SteveP

      Mike...yep, obstructive colon cancer while puking up your own feces is a far more dignified way to go!. Good call.

      July 6, 2011 at 23:46 | Report abuse |
  4. Chop Chop

    Yeah, colon cancer cases have declined by 1.5% due to more screening and instances of people who had polyps with only a 40% chance of turning cancerous having perfectly good colons permanently surgically removed causing them to have seriously decreased quality of life for the rest of their lives has skyrocketed. Some of us out here, BTW, SERIOUSLY doubt that 40% number, too.

    July 5, 2011 at 20:49 | Report abuse | Reply
    • tpears

      Take your chance with the procedure (less than 1 in 3000 chance of perforation), or take your chance with colon cancer (1 in 20 if left unchecked). Get your facts before spouting off.

      July 5, 2011 at 21:23 | Report abuse |
    • Elizabeth

      See my reply to BRB. Enjoy spending all your retirement money on treatments. And trust me, there is nothing more unpleasant for you or your family than cancer. The pain level is off the chart.

      July 6, 2011 at 22:46 | Report abuse |
  5. Howard

    If the Republicans have their way on Health Care you can kiss this test goodbye unless you can afford it!!!!!1

    July 5, 2011 at 21:03 | Report abuse | Reply
    • william

      Such b.s.., Howard.

      July 5, 2011 at 21:27 | Report abuse |
    • Elizabeth

      Amen to that. I know a librarian whose health plan did not cover colonoscopies.

      July 6, 2011 at 22:47 | Report abuse |
    • Margaret

      You can kiss it good bye now if you don't have insurance. I have not found anyone doing low cost or free colonoscopy. My doctor recommended it several years ago, but when I said I had no insurance, oh well we will have to wait until you are 65 and get Medicare, now they are talking about raising the age for Medicare again. And don't even think about Medicaid in our state, they are Not taking any one and they are letting more people out of the system. The so called Obamacare was my best shot at getting insured. That does not look like it is going to happen.

      July 7, 2011 at 02:10 | Report abuse |
  6. MD

    Fecal occult blood testing is shown as favorable as colonoscopy from a long-term outcome standpoint. It requires essentially no prep for screening. Read up on it.

    July 5, 2011 at 21:33 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Chetan

      Thanks Mr.MD. I think you are right.

      July 5, 2011 at 21:40 | Report abuse |
    • BRBSanDiego

      MD is correct. I told my doctor that I would not submit to "hose up the butt" deal ever again. He said that the fecal occult test is 98% effective which is good enough for me. There is no history of colon or any other cancer in either branch of family. Longevity into the 80's and 90's seems to be the only family trait. Colonoscopy is a huge money maker at $4,000 a pop.

      July 6, 2011 at 16:56 | Report abuse |
    • Elizabeth

      Wow are you misinformed. My husband's cancer DID NOT BLEED in previous tests. He has stage 3C cancer, which was through the wall of the colon, with malignant lymph nodes, and has spread to the mesenteric area. I sincerely hope that "MD" does not stand for medical doctor, because you might be the primary care doctor who was just giving my husband anti-spasmodic drugs for his "irritable bowel syndrome."

      July 6, 2011 at 22:51 | Report abuse |
    • Margaret

      And what happens if they find blood? Is the doctor going to volunteer to go to the next procedure? If you don't have the money what then? Pray and eat a lot of fiber?

      July 7, 2011 at 02:13 | Report abuse |
  7. Chetan

    No mention of comparison for FOBT (Fecal Occult Blood Test) Vs. Colonoscopy in reducing mortality. I understand that Colonoscopy is better than FOBT but it is interesting to see how much difference colonoscopy does make !

    July 5, 2011 at 21:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. JM

    When you have no personal insurance, and your job offers no inurance, and you are 62, fat chance on being able to afford a colonoscopy. Scare us all you want, and we understand, but until there is a national health care coverage, or a way to get truly affordable colonoscopies, many will die because of NO coverage.
    Amen....

    July 5, 2011 at 21:51 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Elizabeth

      Which is why most Americans (over 70 percent) wanted universal health care not tied to their job, but some people (probably those who do not want new business start-ups) wanted health insurance to remain the way it has been, and called anything else socialist or communist. Think people. The advertising budget for those insurance companies is astronomical.

      July 6, 2011 at 22:54 | Report abuse |
  9. beth

    I certainly understand the importance of have a colonscopy screening...since i lost my health insurance I cannot afford one...does anyone know of any organzation that i might get help from to assist me in paying for one. i am 57 and feel a sense of urgent to get one done...

    July 5, 2011 at 21:52 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Charles MD

      I volunteer at a free health clinic here in Chicago .. we have volunteer gastroenterologists on staff who perform colonoscopies at no cost .. you just have to qualify based on your income (don't qualify for Medicaid, don't have enough for private insurance) .. maybe there's a similar organization in your area.

      July 6, 2011 at 13:30 | Report abuse |
  10. Un4gvn

    I was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer last year at the age of 39. This past Christmas should have been my last. I had surgery, radiation & chemo. Beadlesaz, I understand frequent trips to the bathroom accompanied by screams. After a year of pure hell I have been given a clean bill of health. I have to do preps a couple of times a year, and they are terrible! I no longer have feeling in my finger tips and toes; buttoning shirts is a chore while getting dressed and I've gone from typing 90 WPM down to about 10 WPM. At the end of the day I am alive; I am only slightly annoyed by my fingertips & toes, and I am enjoying watching my little girls grow up. To the crybabies out there, man up and get checked. It will be well worth it.

    July 5, 2011 at 22:02 | Report abuse | Reply
    • skeptic1

      Just posted that my Mom is a colon cancer survivor – diagnosis 1969. Drastic measures back then, but she is alive and well. Amazing woman – always said she survived because she wanted to raise her kids. She succeeded. Just thought I'd pass that along to you. Be well.

      July 5, 2011 at 22:23 | Report abuse |
    • beadlesaz

      Un4gvn – you may not check back for replies to your post, I hope you do. I am so glad to know that your doing ok. I get nervous before every PET scan. But I've been cancer free for 2 years and have an 80% chance of surviving 5 years. I figure that's better than a 20% chance, right? I am so disheartened to read all these naysayers – hopefully they won't dissuade others from a potentially life-threatening test. Good luck to you in the future and enjoy your youngsters! Teresa

      July 6, 2011 at 18:25 | Report abuse |
    • Elizabeth

      My husband is going through colon cancer treatment right now. I replied to BRBSanDiego who was trying to scare people away from this test. I didn't mention the numb fingertips, and my husband used to enjoy playing classical guitar, but he is so grateful to be alive. I'm glad that you can be there for your children. Keep up the positive thinking!

      July 6, 2011 at 22:58 | Report abuse |
    • Un4gvn

      Thanks everyone.

      July 8, 2011 at 10:16 | Report abuse |
  11. radiowidow

    Know someone who experienced pain and other symptoms for several weeks. The doctor didn't believe it could be colon cancer because she was only in her 30s. Lo and behold she was finally tested and colon cancer was confirmed. After chemo, she's ok, but how many others go undiagnosed until it's too late.

    And JM – thank you for bringing up a point that cannot be ignored.

    How sad that in our country it seems that corporate tax breaks are a right, but health care is not.

    July 5, 2011 at 22:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. skeptic1

    My mother is a colon cancer survivor, twice now, and I also have additional family history of this disease. Just had my second colonoscopy at age 50 – three benign polyps removed. As I've promised my Mom, I'll be back for no. 3 at age 55 and every five years after that. Sure beats going through what she has endured – thankful for the knowledge and good health insurance.

    July 5, 2011 at 22:17 | Report abuse | Reply
    • jen

      Jessie - read up on Lynch Syndrome, if it really runs in your family and you meet the criteria you should be having colonoscopies every 2 yrs from age 20-40 and 1 per year after age 40 - the issue being, 'running in your family' - if only older people (above age 50) are getting it, it may run in your family, but not be genetic - if it's not genetic, then just be mindful - but if you get a parent or sibling that gets it before age 50, start worrying now or get genetic testing

      July 6, 2011 at 09:15 | Report abuse |
    • Maria

      I underwent genetic testing earlier this year and have a confirmed diagnosis of Lynch Syndrome. I was 43 when diagnosed with stage 2A colon cancer, which was preceded by a diagnosis of uterine cancer four months prior. Colonoscopies save lives! I should have had one when I was 38 because my dad was diagnosed with colon cancer at 48. If I would have gone earlier, it would have been a polyp, not cancer, and I wouldn't have needed chemo plus two feet of my colon removed.

      July 6, 2011 at 10:10 | Report abuse |
  13. TD

    Most of my life I had health insurance and now that I am at the age where I need it most for check ups like this, I don't and cannot afford it. The federal government ought to at least allow assisted suicide in all 50 states so if folks like me can't afford the checkup and worse they can go out with little pain if necessary. Of course to save the taxpayers money, cyanide and cremation would be the least expensive solution. Hey if someone's gotta go keep it as humane as possible.

    July 5, 2011 at 23:15 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Elizabeth

      I know that it's hard, but positive thinking helps a bit. I am very upset that the conservative Supreme Court allowed any corporation to advertise for political parties; the health insurance industry spent a fortune keeping itself healthy at the expense of over 2/3 of Americans who wanted universal health care.

      July 6, 2011 at 23:02 | Report abuse |
  14. MR CLEAN

    I had one done at 40 because of family history. It was easy. I did it without hesitation because a friend lost his battle to the disease -in his 40's. Just get it done and stop thinking about it. Forget the prep, forget the thought of the actual exam-neither are that bad.

    July 6, 2011 at 08:40 | Report abuse | Reply
    • mike c

      I have had several colonoscopies over the last 20 years with a few polyps removed. The prep is less than wonderful, but if you follow directions it is hardly an ordeal. My grandpa died of colon cancer, by the time they caught it, they just looked inside and said there was nothing left to do. He wasted away over the course of less than a year. The family went through a lot of emotional pain while he suffered. Many health exams are undignified for the patient, but dying unnecessarily is a lot worse.

      July 7, 2011 at 05:08 | Report abuse |
  15. Ken

    At the suggestion of a friend back in 2000, I had a colonoscopy. The Doctor found early stage colon cancer. I had a bowel resection and get checked regularly by blood tests and colonoscopy. I've been cancer-free since then. I also found out that colon cancer runs in my family. The prep is no fun but neither is the alternative – death.

    July 6, 2011 at 08:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. jen

    If Dr. Frieden has a family history of colon cancer then he needs colonoscopies every year of his life or get the genetic testing to show he does not have the gene mutation... - my husband had a family history (both his father/brother had it/died from it) he was getting colonoscopies every 3-5 yrs, he went 3.5 yrs without a colonoscopy and was diagnosed with stage 3B colon cancer - which also included 2 primary tumors - if you have a family history, u can't just take it lightly - genetic colon cancer kills and quickly... and too many doctors don't even understand or refuse to listen to people under the age of 50 that complain about problems.

    it's not enough to talk about colonoscopies for people over 50 - colon cancer is killing thousands of people under 50

    July 6, 2011 at 09:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Jessie

    My grandmother passed away 2 years ago from colon cancer and seeing her suffer through it broke my heart I know it runs in my family so at what age should i start getting tested? I'm in my late 20's.

    July 6, 2011 at 09:12 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Talk to your doctor–not anonymous posters on a message board. Based on my experience as a patient, the doctor will ask how old your grandmother was when she was diagnosed, whether anyone else in your family has had colon cancer and at what ages they were diagnosed, and make a recommendation based on that information.

      July 6, 2011 at 09:19 | Report abuse |
    • Elizabeth

      My husband was 55 when diagnosed; his grandfather was in his 80s when diagnosed. Age is not a factor, nor is a conversation with a doctor, because my husband's primary physician was just giving him anti-spasmodics for irritable bowel syndrome. I think you might want a genetic test. If you are a woman and have a clean colonoscopy, you can also have endometriosis (look up the Endometriosis Association) or celiac disease. You might want to learn more, because you, not your doctor, lives in your body.

      July 6, 2011 at 23:07 | Report abuse |
  18. Jackie

    I'm only 21 years old and have had 2 colonoscopies because I have ulcerative colitis. The prep isn't that bad. I'd rather stay at home for 1 day to prep than end up with colon cancer and not knowing!

    July 6, 2011 at 10:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. joe

    The only thing worse than than the indignity of a colonoscopy is the indignity you will face on a daily basis after you get colon cancer and the surgery leaves you crapping into a bag that you have to carry around on your waist because the cancer was caught too late and they had to take out a large portion of your colon.

    Or the indignity of fighting for your life while chemotherapy poisons the rest of your body at the same time while doctors try to stop the cancer from spreading. Add the indignity of losing your sense of touch when the chemo turns your nerve endings against you and leaves you with neuropathy or one of hundreds of other painful debilitating side effects.

    Add the indignity of spending your life in cancer wards while round after round of chemo and radiation is heaped on you to try to save your life instead of living your life doing the things you love with the people you love.

    Add the indignity of having a doctor tell you there is nothing more they can do and you are going to die soon. Then tell your family.

    Or just get a colonoscopy.

    Your choice.

    July 6, 2011 at 10:21 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Elizabeth

      Or, the indignity of not being able to afford treatments and experiencing the worst pain, beyond imagination.

      July 6, 2011 at 23:09 | Report abuse |
  20. numbnut

    My boss is 47 and just went through 10 months of treatment for colon cancer. Runs in her family. Her 27 year old son now has the same symptoms: crampy feeling, bleeding. He has no insurance. Just moved and changed jobs. A gastro...ologist refused to treat him because he has no insurance. My guess is he has the disease, too. Anyone have any suggestions on how he can get a colonoscopy free, or for little $$?

    July 6, 2011 at 10:23 | Report abuse | Reply
    • numbnut

      Forgot to mention that he lives in Lincolnton, NC.

      July 6, 2011 at 10:25 | Report abuse |
    • Elizabeth

      If you have space in the rafters, take him in to live in your house. Call local hospitals, treatment centers, health departments, government, Cancer Society, any other cancer organizations, etc., and see what they say. If he has cancer, he won't be living anywhere; better if he lives with you where he might be driven to treatments.

      July 6, 2011 at 23:13 | Report abuse |
    • Elizabeth

      Sorry, since the post was in another part of the page; I forgot it was your boss's son. Still, I hope that they take him in and do the research.

      July 6, 2011 at 23:14 | Report abuse |
  21. BobinCal

    My doctor keeps nagging me to have this but with no history of cancer in my family I have passed.

    Does anyone know what percentage of these test find cancer or even polyps?

    July 6, 2011 at 11:06 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Elizabeth

      Try any of the medical information services on the internet concerning colon cancer screening. Look at the incidence (cases per 100,000) of colon cancer.

      July 6, 2011 at 23:16 | Report abuse |
    • Un4gvn

      My family has no history of the disease. Genetic testing said I have no markers that indicate I don't have any genetic signs that I would end up with any type of cancer. This was after I was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer. They called it a "ghost cancer".

      July 8, 2011 at 10:07 | Report abuse |
  22. Dee

    Yeah, well what about the people with no health ins. and cannot afford to have it done???

    July 6, 2011 at 11:08 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Lynn

      I can't get health insurance, I've tried with all of the major carriers and am turned down for pre-existing conditions. Work for a small employer where insurance isn't offered as a benefit. Can't afford the cost so I guess if I get cancer I'll get that treatment and let the state pick up the cost when I declare myself an indigent.

      It dosn't seem right that I'd happily pay for something – even a reduced amount of coverage – but I can't get it. The reason given is that I had a high blood pressure and cholesterol reading a few years back so I'm denied.

      July 6, 2011 at 12:34 | Report abuse |
    • Elizabeth

      Ask the various cancer organizations. And be careful to vote for people who are truly for health care, and tell your friends that health care is not "socialist," but pro-American.

      July 6, 2011 at 23:18 | Report abuse |
  23. Patti56

    If I didn't have an individual health insurance policy, $400 a month, with $5000 I pay out of pocket before Aetna contributes anything, I'd get one. THE COST OF THE TEST CAN BE PROHIBITIVE.

    July 6, 2011 at 12:50 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Elizabeth

      America tried to get health care, but the big insurance companies can pay a fortune for ads saying that it is socialist, not pro-American. We should have gotten universal health care, not job-related healthcare that does not cover enough tests or conditions. At least tell your friends to vote, and don't vote for people who would repeal the new healthcare law, which won't really go into effect for another few years.

      July 6, 2011 at 23:21 | Report abuse |
  24. Jenney

    The study shows "that the number of cases slipped 3.4% from 2003 to 2007... The number of people dying from colorectal cancer also is declining – by 3% a year"
    How can the above result prove that screening has saved lives?

    July 6, 2011 at 13:02 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      I don't get your confusion. There are fewer cases being diagnosed possibly because of changes in diet and lifestyle. There are fewer people dying because more people are being screened early enough to treat the disease.

      July 6, 2011 at 13:17 | Report abuse |
    • Jenney

      Tom, Tom, the Piper's son:

      The research showed that fewer people developed colon cancer (maybe because of changes in diet as you put it), and as a result, fewer people died from this disease. Therefore, screening is not relevant in this causal relationship.

      To indirectly prove that screening saves lives, the result would be: the number of cases increased (or did not change) from 2003 to 2007, but fewer people died because of the screening followed by treatment.

      So Dr. Thomas Frieden's reasoning is flawed .

      July 6, 2011 at 14:03 | Report abuse |
    • Elizabeth

      Jenney, I'm sure that you are trying to find a financial reason to stop screening. Let me tell you, it costs far more to treat cancer than to have these screenings. Maybe people would have cancer anyway, but the surgery would be easier, and prognosis better, and the bill would be much less.

      July 6, 2011 at 23:23 | Report abuse |
    • SteveP

      Jenney....that's a 3.4% decrease in incidence across 5 years but a 3% decline in mortality each year. Little has changed in treatment options, so one must infer that the majority of that decline in mortality is secondary to early detection. Furthermore, that decrease in incidence, while possibly attributable to lifestyle changes, at the same time is likely at least partly attributable to detection of precancerous polyps and polypectomies long before an actual colon cancer develops and adds to the incidence statistics.

      July 6, 2011 at 23:56 | Report abuse |
  25. Jenney

    Tom, Tom:
    The research showed that fewer people developed colon cancer (maybe because of changes in diet as you put it), and as a result, fewer people died from this disease. Therefore, screening is not relevant in this causal relationship

    July 6, 2011 at 13:39 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      You may be right. I don't know. Even if this particular study doesn't show a decrease in mortality from colon cancer, I think there are others that have. Either way, I would get screened.

      July 6, 2011 at 14:39 | Report abuse |
    • Jenney

      Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son:

      I respect your choice. But the diagnose of colon cancer, just like any other cancer, is not yes or no. For example, when a cancerous polyp large than 0.5 cm is detected, treatment is recommended. But a cancerous polyp as large as 0.5 cm is only associated with less than 1% cancer risk. (That is where overdiagnosis takes place.)
      My doctor has been nagging about screening, but I have passed. I am already 60 years old, I would be satisfied if I can live 10 more years, treatment free! So I take my chances!

      July 6, 2011 at 15:05 | Report abuse |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Well, of course, it's your decision. My mother-in-law, however, wasn't diagnosed until she was in her 70s. She is now 85 and doing well. Had she not gone and had a colonoscopy when she did, I doubt she'd still be alive. She had surgery and a year of treatment and is cancer free thus far. So if you aren't concerned about it, don't have a colonoscopy.

      July 6, 2011 at 16:33 | Report abuse |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      What I am puzzled by is your decision not to even get screened to see IF there are polyps and then make a decision about treatment if a large polyp is found. Why would you want to avoid knowing about something when the knowledge might save your life and would need far less invasive treatment if found early?

      It doesn't make any sense to me, but it's your funeral. Just kidding. You can do whatever you want.

      July 6, 2011 at 16:40 | Report abuse |
    • Jenney

      Hi Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son:

      I like your humor, but who will not have a funeral? Many rich people who had had excellent yearly screening (colon cancer, prostate cancer) died before the age of 70, and many who hadn't lived beyond 80.

      Now the real question is, has there been solid, scientific evidence that early screening saves lives? The research reported here certainly is not one!

      July 6, 2011 at 17:09 | Report abuse |
    • Wendy

      Jenney – I'm not sure what research you are reading but that is not true especially if colon cancer runs in your family. I lost both maternal grandparents to colon cancer. My grandparents had 7 children. Most of them have now had polyps removed that would have developed into cancer if not for a colonscopy. I, myself, am 38 and have had 2 already...luckily with no polyps but I'm still considered young for this cancer. I understand the hardship if you don't have health insurance although I can tell you that many counties/cities/states offer preventative testing for those who can't afford it as I was unemployed one year when I was due for my test. Colonscopy's due save lives and many of them. This is a very preventable cancer! You don't have to die from it! I'm a math major and understand stats but stats often leave out human error and thought as they should. Please, encourage your loved ones over the age of 50 to have the test and at the age of 30 if it runs in your family. It's already saved my mom, 3 of my aunts and my uncle! It's a very life saving test! God Bless!

      July 6, 2011 at 21:24 | Report abuse |
    • Jenney

      Hello Wendy,
      I understand your emotion of fear, but we have been talking about the new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (see above). Can you control your emotion and read carefully the report to see if the results of this very research allow us to conclude that "screening saves lives"?

      July 6, 2011 at 21:59 | Report abuse |
    • andrew

      its also known that genetics and the environment is a factor for colon cancer

      July 6, 2011 at 22:45 | Report abuse |
    • Elizabeth

      Jenney, speaking of emotion, your posts make me angry, because I assume that you are a really nice person that would be nice to have around in a decade. My husband has colon cancer; you don't want to go through that, even if you do not plan to live very long.

      July 6, 2011 at 23:27 | Report abuse |
  26. Ted

    I strongly urge everyone over 50 to have the screening done.I watched a younger brother die from colon cancer.It was not an easy death.I admit the preperation for the screenig is not pleasent but it's more pleasent than the treatment for colon cancer is.I am 75 years old and I really enjoy life with my wife of 52 years and I'll keep on having the screenings as my doctor recommends.

    July 6, 2011 at 16:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Ted

    Early screening and detection and removal of polyps can actually prevent cancer.

    July 6, 2011 at 16:23 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jenney

      Ted:
      How do you know? There has never been a scientific study to prove this.
      In order to prove that early screening and treatment can prevent cancer, we need to choose two groups of patients who have been diagnosed as being at an early cancer stage (these groups should be exactly the same in terms of the severity of the disease), and then one group will receive treatment and the other group will not. After several years, if more people in the non-treatment group have died, then we can say early screening and treatment save lives.
      Because of ethical concerns, however, we cannot carry out a study like this. As a result, all the evidence about the efficacy of cancer treatment is based on correlational data, and often on a flawed reasoning such as Dr. Thomas Frieden's.

      July 6, 2011 at 16:55 | Report abuse |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Then, since such a study is unlikely, due to the ethical issues you point out, why would you not err on the side of caution? What harm is there in removing polyps that may turn out to be cancerous? I simply don't understand your reasoning, Jenney.

      And yes, of course everyone will have a funeral. Nobody gets out alive. But I'd much rather not die of a preventable disease like colon cancer if I can avoid it.

      July 6, 2011 at 18:59 | Report abuse |
    • Jenney

      Hi Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son:

      The reason is that you only have 3.4 % of chances of having colon cancer, but screaming will give you 56% of chances of being treated for something you will die with, not from. As I said earlier, when a cancerous polyp large than 0.5 cm is detected, removal is recommended. But a cancerous polyp as large as 0.5 cm is only associated with less than 1% cancer risk, and you have to undergo a surgery for it. Screening and surgery is not free lunch.

      I have to drive through a risky high way to go to work. According the statistics, my risk of dying in a traffic accident is 3.8%. So I am more worried about ending up in a funeral because of a car accident than because of colon cancer.

      When we read a research finding in medicine, we have to analyse if the conclusion fits the results. In the study reported above, the conclusion has nothing to do with the results. It is fear mongering.

      It is nice to have talked with you, Tom, I am going to shut up now.

      July 6, 2011 at 20:38 | Report abuse |
    • Elizabeth

      Jenney: If you have colon cancer, your chance of survival is listed as a percentage of prognosis. After surgery for stage 3C cancer, my husband was told by an oncologist that he would have a 50 percent of dying in 5 years if he did not get chemo therapy, but with chemo therapy, he would have a 70 percent chance of surviving 5 years. What about that horrible 30 percent? What if he had known that he had cancer before it got to stage 3C? The facts have been sifted, and tested in double-blind studies, and gone over with a fine-toothed comb, but you somehow know better than all the double-blind studies... NOT.

      July 6, 2011 at 23:33 | Report abuse |
    • SteveP

      Jenney...the purpose of the colonoscopy is to detect precancerous lesions. Comparing side by side outcomes of early detected cancers would not be a good study at all in determining the efficacy of screening colonoscopy. Your goal with this study is to eliminate the problem before it becomes a potential statistic.

      July 6, 2011 at 23:58 | Report abuse |
    • mike c

      Jenny: if you have an untreated cancerous polyp, your probability of having cancer is 100%, by definition. Your anti-testing stance suggests that you have another unspoken agenda.

      July 7, 2011 at 05:35 | Report abuse |
    • mike c

      Jenny, your hypothesis is all wrong. The only thing your stated conditions would indicate is whether treatment benefits patients with test results positive for cancer. It would in no way reflect the effects of early detection and removal of non-cancerous and pre-cancerous lesions.
      Why are you adamantly anti-testing?

      July 7, 2011 at 05:46 | Report abuse |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      So glad to see others weigh in on this; I don't know enough to refute Jenney's assertions, but I certainly am happy others can. I don't understand Jenney's thinking at all. It makes NO sense to avoid a test because the possible treatment for the disease it MIGHT find would be 'no walk in the park'.

      It's sad to think that someone who's 60 hasn't got much they care to live for past the next 10 years.

      July 7, 2011 at 07:46 | Report abuse |
  28. andrew

    i am a colon cancer survivor also. I had mine at 26 years old in 1980.
    It was found that i had a problem when I went to donate blood and they wouldn't accept it because of low red cell count.
    Went to the doctor the next day, then to the hospital. exactly one week later i had a resection of the transverse colon.
    For those of you in the know of the different stages of this disease, I was diagnosed with Dukes A. The beginning stages. meaning the cancer had not penetrated the colon nor spread to the liver or lymph nods.
    Yes, i did have chemo.
    The colonoscopy was the determining procedure that saved my life. It was straight forward, no nonsense and got the answers quickly with out expensive computerized tech.

    I now keep myself fit and make it a point to live as healthy a lifestyle i can.
    I made it to 57.

    July 6, 2011 at 16:25 | Report abuse | Reply
    • beadlesaz

      Wishing you many more years of good health, Andrew!

      July 6, 2011 at 19:06 | Report abuse |
    • Elizabeth

      It was a good thing that you followed up! I would be a year older than you, but I've been 29 for 29 years :)

      July 6, 2011 at 23:35 | Report abuse |
  29. D

    If they want more people to do it, then they better come up with a way of properly delivering health care to the masses. I vote single payer.

    July 6, 2011 at 17:59 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Elizabeth

      I vote that way too. Make sure all your friends and family vote while you are at it.

      July 6, 2011 at 23:36 | Report abuse |
  30. Linda

    One of the reasons more people don't get screened for insert-disease-here is that they already have another health condition that requires their resources. Even if you have insurance, getting tested for everything you are supposed to is expensive. You have to spend your money however is best for you.

    July 6, 2011 at 19:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Bravos

    The procedure is prohibitively expensive and insurance companies do not cover it. So only the rich will be saved I guess.

    July 6, 2011 at 19:17 | Report abuse | Reply
    • mike c

      Insurance does cover it, depending on the policy. If your insurance company is that bad they will probably cancel your insurance if you ever get more than a cold. The politicians and those afraid of socialism/communism/someone getting more than they do, are ready to prevent the feds from doing anything to guarantee affordable health care. "Let them eat cake" has morphed into "let them die if they aren't rich". The mythical "death panels" of so-called Obamacare will be realized in Republican "nocare".

      July 7, 2011 at 05:26 | Report abuse |
  32. Wendy

    Hearing all the negative remarks about a colonscopy make me sad. True, it's not the most pleasant experience but it's effective! I'm 38 years old and both my maternal grandparents died of colon cancer. No, I don't like the test or the prep before the test but it saves lives! Luckily, I have had no polyps as of yet but my mother, 3 aunts and 1 uncle have all had numerous polyps removed. The removal ispainless and because of this test, they are still around to enjoy our family! I will gladly put this inconvience and unpleasantness aside and get my test every 4 years because my children deserve for me to be there for them! I'm glad my extended family gets tested as well. I can't imagine loosing them at such an early age as I lost my grandparents when it's so preventable.

    People, PLEASE...don't listen to the negative comments on this board! The test and proceduce is well worth extending your life for not only yourself but your loved ones!

    July 6, 2011 at 21:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. insurance covers it

    Of course insurance covers it. Once you hit 50 or if you have a family history of colon cancer your doctor can order it for you. The prep feels like the day after a night of too many tacos and beer. Stay near a bathroom and you'll be fine. The day of the test they give you great meds to knock you out, check you out, zap any polyps they see, and then you go home and doze on and off for the rest of the afternoon. You get peace of mind for 5-10 years! Man up and do it.

    July 6, 2011 at 21:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Tina

    I just buried a close friend 2 wks ago who died from colon cancer at the ripe old age of 47. How I wish he had gotten a colonoscopy 5 years. I had my first one last year at he age of 45. The prepping is awful. But not as bad the chemo and slow death I had to witness my friend go through. Get screened....the life you save could very well be your own.

    July 6, 2011 at 21:43 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Elizabeth

      I am sorry for your loss. I hope and pray that people wake up when they vote in 2012: many people seem to separate their politics from their needs.

      July 6, 2011 at 23:38 | Report abuse |
  35. Anna

    When I try to go to the governments website on mens health it directs me to the womenshealth.gov website.

    There is an office of Research on Womens health, but no Office of research on mens health.

    Anyone Know how to access the National Mens health .Gov website or if there is such a thing?

    July 6, 2011 at 22:37 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Elizabeth

      Try Google for cancer sites. There are lots of them.

      July 6, 2011 at 23:39 | Report abuse |
  36. Thomas

    I'm 40, been working since I was 13.

    I work 60 to 75 hours a week and have never had health insurance. If I had a simple appendicitis I would simply die.

    Welcome to America in the 21st century.

    July 6, 2011 at 22:39 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      You'd die if you weren't smart enough to go to a hospital emergency room. Hospitals cannot refuse to treat a person simply because he or she has no insurance.

      July 6, 2011 at 23:02 | Report abuse |
    • Elizabeth

      You would survive appendicitis, but you might not survive something that needs any kind of preventive treatment or screening such as cancer. Next time you vote, do not vote for candidates that are against health care.

      July 6, 2011 at 23:41 | Report abuse |
  37. PharmacyJane

    A colonoscopy is the best option for colon cancer prevention. If you have colon cancer, it will likely be detected. Interestingly, there are other preventative dietary supplements out there that have been used for colon cancer prevention- I found a ton on http://www.NaturalStandard.com (e.g barley, black seed, cherry, and flaxseed). However, it’s important to keep in mind that these options received an evidence grade of C which means that there is conflicting or unclear scientific evidence to support their use in preventing colon cancer. However, with colon cancer being the second leading cause of death in American for both men AND women, I think the evidence-based information from Natural Standard is worth a read. Perhaps these options can be used in conjugation with colonoscopy exams to potentially increase prevention.

    July 13, 2011 at 11:14 | Report abuse | Reply
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  42. Getscreened

    I'm 50 years old and just had my first colonoscopy. The entire process is simple and painless so I don't understand most of the comments by others on this thread. Instead of the liquid take the pills to clean out your colon. The pills are easy to swallow and don't upset your stomach. The trick is to stay hydrated by drinking lots of fluid with the pills. The colonoscopy itself is a cake walk since you are sedated. You won't feel or remember the procedure at all. I urge everyone to get screened so as not to become a statistic.

    June 23, 2012 at 17:12 | Report abuse | Reply

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