While current recommendations from doctors and experts are that men and women should start regular colonoscopies beginning at age 50, this recommendation might not fit across the board for people from different ethnic groups. While rates and incidents of mortality from colorectal cancer have been on the decline in the US, the survival rate amongst the African American community is actually declining much slower than that of other ethnic groups.
According to the American Cancer Society, the African American community has both the highest death rate and shortest length of survival for most types of cancers, including colorectal cancer, which is the third most common cancer amongst both men and women of that ethnic community.
What Are The Risk Factors?
One of the main risk factors for colorectal cancer include advanced age, which is why the current recommendation is that both men and women should begin receiving colonoscopies regularly once they reach the age of 50. Additional risk factors include a family history of the disease, inflammatory bowel disease, IBD, personal history of any other type of cancer, and physical inactivity and obesity. Patients who have had adenomas, non-cancerous polyps discovered in the colon or rectum, are also at a higher risk of developing colorectal cancer. The difference between cancer risks in the African American community versus those in other ethnic groups appear to be less about biology and more about a combination of factors including socioeconomic differences, cultural stigma associated with the test, high fat diets, and access to healthcare.
How Can We Prevent Colorectal Cancer?
The number one tool in the fight against colorectal cancer is regular screening colonoscopies. While the current and general recommendation for otherwise healthy patients is to begin screening at age 50, the American College of Gastroenterology recommends that screening begin at age 45 amongst the African American community. Although those recommendations don’t come until a bit later in life, you can’t ignore your stomach issues until then. It’s important that you visit Dr. Sameer Islam for regular checkups any time you observe something different in your digestion and digestive health.
The most common signs of colorectal cancer overlap with symptoms of other GI troubles like irritable bowel syndrome, IBS, or general infections. The key is to have these symptoms addressed and evaluated before they become something serious and begin to affect your day-to-day life. These symptoms include a change in bowel habits that last more than a few days, blood in your stool, severe cramping in your abdomen, weakness or fatigue, and unintended weight loss. If you find yourself experiencing these symptoms, especially if you fall into one of the high-risk categories, make an appointment to see us as soon as you can.
When you come visit our office, we’re able to perform regular health and wellness checkups as well as advanced screenings. At our office, we’re always up to date with the latest research and recommendations and are happy to pass that along to our patients. Contact Dr. Islam today to schedule your appointment and let us help you in the fight against colorectal cancer.