Known as a silent cancer that generally strikes after age 50, colorectal cancer is a common malignancy and one of the most preventable, doctors are expected to report during a news briefing Tuesday.
Physicians at South Nassau Communities Hospital in Oceanside say they are offering tips for the public about the cancer with the hope that more people will see their physicians to be screened.
Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society.
“Nearly 75 percent of colon cancer occurs in people without obvious medical risk factors,” said Dr. Rajiv Datta, medical director of South Nassau Communities Hospital’s Gertrude & Louis Feil Cancer Center. “Since symptoms of colon cancer often do not appear until the disease has reached later stages, we advocate a regular colonoscopy screening.”
Datta said proof of the effectiveness of screening “is demonstrated by the fact that the risk of dying from colon cancer is reduced approximately 33 percent among people who are screened regularly.”
He and his colleague, Dr. Robert C. Amajoyi, will present statistics about the disease Tuesday and introduce their patient, Carline Jason, 51, a Queens mother and teacher, who has acknowledged that a colonoscopy saved her life. In January 2016, when she was 50, her family physician recommended a colonoscopy.
Jason did not have a family history of the disease and expected a clean bill of health but was shocked when the examination revealed cancer. She underwent robotic surgery at South Nassau Communities Hospital and now is cancer free, her doctors said.
Colonoscopy rates have risen in recent years, according to the American Cancer Society, but Amajoyi said while half of eligible adults undergo the screening, the percentage should be much higher.
The exam, he said, allows a doctor to examine the large intestine’s inner lining and involves the use of a flexible tube — a colonoscope. As the tube is guided through the colon, which Amajoyi said, is about 5 feet in length, abnormalities, such as polyps, ulcers, or regions of inflammation can be identified. If a polyp is present, it can be removed during the exam. The exam has helped increase the number of cancers that are found in an early, treatable stage, he said.
The American Cancer Society recommends that colorectal cancer screening begin at age 50 for people of average risk. Average risk means not having a first-degree relative who has had the disease, Amajoyi said.
A first-degree relative is defined as a parent, sibling or child. People who have a first-degree relative who have had the disease should begin screening at age 40. And because of a generally higher prevalence of the disease among African Americans, Amajoyi and other experts recommend that screening for this population to begin at 45.
Amajoyi, board certified in both colorectal and general surgery, said some of the most important facts the public should know about screening for colorectal cancer involves the biology of polyps, abnormal growths that can occur in the large intestine. Most polyps are harmless, Amajoyi said, but some are precursors to malignancy.
“My whole deal is this: I think polyps don’t get enough publicity,” Amajoyi said Monday in an interview. “Having polyps puts you at higher risk for colorectal cancer and once one is found that means your family members should be screened earlier.
“The title of my talk is, basically, ‘Are you polyp free?’ Polyps are pretty common,” he said. “About 30 to 40 percent of adults above the age of 50 have polyps.”
Polyps generally cause no symptoms and while many people think of them as roundish protrusions that can emerge in the colon, Amajoyi underscored that some are flat and adhere closely to the colon’s inner surface, making a colonoscopy the best method of finding them.