Colon Cancer Awareness & Screenings

Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the US. A colonoscopy is the best way to screen for colon cancer. If you are 45 or older, it is recommended to schedule a screening for colon cancer. 

More About Colon Cancer and Screenings

Dr. Lalama was interviewed on the importance of screening for colon cancer. The text of his interview is transcribed here.


What is the importance of making people more knowledgeable about the risk of colon cancer and promoting screenings?

Colon cancer can sneak up on you. Sometimes a patient doesn’t have any symptoms until it’s too late to treat. Age is the single most important risk factor for the disease. If you’re 45 or older, you should have a screening done.

Most colorectal cancers can be prevented. Screenings are important because they can find and remove polyps before they become cancer.

Additionally, individuals who have a family member with colon cancer or polyps are more likely to develop the disease themselves, so more aggressive screening starting at a younger age may be necessary.


What might a screening entail?

There are a number of ways to screen for colorectal cancers, but a colonoscopy is the very best way to detect and prevent colorectal cancer. A colonoscopy allows the physician to view the entire colon. It also allows the physician to both detect and remove polyps during the same procedure. There are some other methods which have varying abilities to detect or prevent colorectal cancer, such as: Fecal Occult Blood Test, Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT), flexible sigmoidoscopy, colonoscopy, CT colonography, barium enema with air contrast, colon capsule endoscopy, and stool DNA testing. A colonoscopy is the only test suitable for individuals with family history of colorectal cancer.

A colonoscopy is typically done on an outpatient basis. A mild sedative is usually given before the procedure and then a flexible, slender tube is inserted into the rectum to look inside the colon. The test is safe and the procedure itself typically takes less than 30 minutes.


How often should someone get screenings and who should get screenings?

Starting at age 45, both men and women should have a colonoscopy done every 10 years. Men and women should begin screening earlier and more frequently if they have any of the following risk factors: personal or family history of colorectal cancer or polyps, known family history of inherited colorectal syndromes, or personal history of chronic inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s Disease).


What are some of the statistics of colon cancer or related problems?

Nearly 135,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with colorectal cancer each year and over 50,000 die annually because of it (ASGE). Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States (ASGE).


How many cases of cancer are detected through screenings regularly?

There are about 1.2 million colorectal cancer survivors in the US. Colorectal cancer rates have been declining rapidly in the past 10 years, mainly due to the increase of screenings. The death rate from colorectal cancer has dropped in the past 15 years due to the removal of polyps before they become cancer, improved treatments, and earlier detection.


What is the importance of detecting colorectal cancer in the early stages?

The earlier that colorectal cancer is detected, the easier it is to treat and cure. The five-year survival rate for people with colorectal cancer when discovered at an early stage is greater than 90 percent. Unfortunately, that five-year survival rate declines rapidly when not detected early, or after the cancer has already spread to nearby organs.


How long have you been a gastroenterologist?

I’ve been serving the tri-state area as a gastroenterologist and advanced therapeutic endoscopist since 2018. I’ve been a physician since 2010.