Colorectal Cancer Awareness with David Dozer, M.D., gastroenterologist, Baptist Medical Group

Colorectal Cancer Awareness with David Dozer, M.D., gastroenterologist, Baptist Medical Group 

Did you know that colon cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women in the U.S.? However, many colorectal cancers can be prevented through regular screenings. Dr. David Dozer, a board-certified gastroenterologist with Baptist Medical Group, explains who is at risk and the preventative measures you should take to stay healthy.

Q: What does a colorectal screening involve and why is it important?

A: Colorectal cancer screening is the process of detecting early stage and pre-cancerous lesions in asymptomatic people with no prior history of colon cancer or pre-cancerous lesions called polyps. There are many ways to screen for colorectal cancer, and the gold standard is the colonoscopy. This test shows direct visualization of the colon with a flexible scope after cleaning out the colon and sedating the patient. It only takes 15-20 minutes and polyps can be removed at the same time.

Q: What are the warning signs of colon cancer that individuals should never ignore?

A: Many people with colon cancer have no warning signs. This makes screening very important. Other possible signs include rectal bleeding, change in bowel movements, anemia, abdominal pain or weight loss.

Q: Are there early warning signs of colon cancer?

A: There are no signs of early colon cancer, which is why screening and surveillance are so important. Once someone is known to be at a higher risk of having cancer, a colonoscopy is needed every three to five years. Detection of early cancer and removal of pre-cancerous lesions prevent colon cancer. On average, polyps take seven to ten years to turn into cancer, and many people have polyps without knowing. It is often much more difficult to treat once you develop symptoms of cancer.

Q: Who is most likely to develop colon cancer and why is that?

A: Important factors include age, family history of colon cancer, history of multiple polyps,history of Ulcerative Colitis, obesity, tobacco and alcohol abuse. Age increases the risk of sporadic polyps, and others inherit the genetic mutations that shorten the time it takes for polyps to develop into cancer. African Americans have the highest rates of colon cancer among ethnic groups, and therefore, we begin screening for these patients at age 45. Patients with diabetes are also at an increased risk of colon cancer.

Q: Who should get screened for colon cancer and at what age?

A: Most begin screening at age 50 and African Americans at age 45. Children of patients diagnosed with colon cancer will begin screening 10 years younger than the family member with colorectal cancer. Patients with rectal bleeding will be screened at any age.

Q: What can people do to maintain overall gastrointestinal health? What preventative measures should be taken?

A: Preventive measures lowering the risk of colon cancer include a diet high in fruits and vegetables and low in fat and charred red meat. Increased physical activity and weight loss also are very important to also lower the risk of many cancers. Increasing the intake of vitamins and minerals such as folic acid, calcium, vitamin D, magnesium and omega-3 fatty acids in fish also lowers the risk. The best way to prevent most cancers is to increase physical activity, lose weight, stop smoking and do not consume excessive amounts of alcohol.

Q: Where can someone go for questions about colorectal screenings or to schedule an appointment?

A: I would recommend everyone go through their primary care physician for more information, and contact Baptist Medical Group – Gastroenterology. To learn more or make an appointment, call 850.626.9626 or visit BaptistMedicalGroup.org.