The colon is the large intestine. It is the last part of the digestive tract. The colon's
purpose is to absorb liquids and salts (electrolytes). Generally after a person eats it takes
2-3 days for the food to go through the entire large intestine.
Polyps are growths that occur in the lining of your colon. There are two main types.
The first type are precancerous, and doctors call these "adenomatous polyps" because 10%
may grow to become cancers, especially large adenomatous polyps. The second type doctors call
hyperplastic, and these are benign, meaning they do not grow to become colon cancer.
The rectum is the last 10-15 centimeters of the large intestine or colon. Its purpose is
to store fecal matter for awhile so that a person does not have to run to the bathroom for a
bowel movement each time stool comes down the colon. The rectum has muscles that close while
holding stool in, and that open when a person has a bowel movement to let stool out.
Genetic testing involves taking a sample of tissue or body fluid and then looking into
the sample cells for DNA. DNA is made up of genes, which store information about a person's
heredity. In a laboratory, methods are used to find out if specific genes are different than
expected, or abnormal. Genes, including those with abnormal differences, are passed from
generation to generation. Since all cancers result from abnormal changes in genes, by looking
at specific genes which are known to be linked to certain diseases, it is possible to find
out if a person has a hereditary condition that increases the risk of colon cancer.
Before you get genetic testing, you may want to meet with a specially-trained health
professional who can help you find and understand information so you can make a truly informed
decision about whether or not to get genetic testing. Before testing, the counselor is there to
help you prepare emotionally and psychologically in case the test results show that you have
inherited a higher risk for colon cancer. If test results are positive, and do confirm a higher
risk, the counselor helps you and your family adjust and find the prevention and screening
resources needed in your individual case.
Medicare and Illinois Medicaid cover all methods of colon cancer screening. Coverage
through Medicaid in other states may differ. Many insurance companies and health benefit
plans cover some method of colon cancer screening. For specifics, please check with your
insurance company or health benefit plan to find out how colon cancer screening is covered.
If you are an HMO member, you will need to get a referral from your primary care physicians
to see a specialist and for testing.
If you are a PPO member and you need a colonoscopy, the gastroenterology specialist's
office should call your insurance company to get prior authorization. PPO members get higher
benefits for using network providers. Call your insurance company to make sure the doctor
you choose is in your network.
Check with your primary care physician or
request an appointment with a gastroenterolgy specialist at Rush University Medical Center.
Beginning screening at the appropriate age is the single most important thing you can do
to protect yourself against colon cancer. Understanding your risk is key to knowing when to begin
screening. Taking this screening survey is a great way to start. In addition, it is important to
know as much as possible about your family's health history.
Studies show that colon cancer risks are reduced by half with moderate levels of physical
activity. Even small amounts of physical activity can cut your colon cancer risk. Activities
such as climbing stairs, and brisk walking are encouraged. 3 hours of physical activity a week
is recommended. Check with your physician before beginning a new exercise program.
Eat less meat!
Studies show that eating less than one serving of meat (beef, lamb, pork) a week is half the risk
of eating more than five servings.
Current recommendations for colon cancer screening vary based on whether you or one or
more family members have had colon cancer or polyps.
In 2005 just as many women are expected to be diagnosed with colon cancer as men.
Colon cancer occurs at the same rate in women as in men. Women who have had cancer of the
uterus, or endometrial cancer are at increased risk.
Colon (colorectal) cancer is generally considered the second or third most common cancer
killer. Each year there are about 150,000 new cases and 58,000 deaths from colon cancer.
Most colon cancers occur in individuals who have no signs of it. Without a test, it is
impossible to tell if you have colon cancer. This is why everyone over the age of 50 should be
tested. The best test for you depends on your risk factors. To see test descriptions,
The cost varies depending on the test you choose. If you are paying out-of-pocket,
the gastroenterology specialist's (Gastroenterologist) office will give you cost information
when you schedule an appointment. If you are an HMO member, you will need a referral from your
primary care physician. Check with your insurance company or health benefit plan to see that the
colon cancer screening is covered and what co-insurance, co-payments or deductibles apply. If you
are a PPO member, you may need to get the screening pre-authorized.
Everyone is at risk for colon cancer, however, some groups are at higher risk, including:
- Any man or woman over the age of 50
- Anyone with a family history of colon cancer
- Anyone who has had precancerous (adenomatous) polyps at any age
- Any woman who has had cancer of the uterus (endometrial cancer) before age 45.
Yes, this cancer is curable with early detection. It is estimated that over
90% of colon cancer deaths could be avoided with early screening.
Yes it is possible, however the majority of colon cancers start out as polyps.
About one third of individuals over 50 have polyps in their colon.
- The American Gastroenterological Association
- U.S. Preventative Services Task Force
- Centers for Disease Control
- American Cancer Society
- American College of Gastroenterology
- American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy