Kingwood doctor urges screening with recent rise in colon cancer

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It is a private domain. It’s embarassing. It’s unpleasant. This is certainly not the subject of family discussions. However, the only way to defeat colorectal cancer before it becomes a serious problem is through screening. Most hesitate because of the preparation, which can be daunting, but necessary for the best possible result.

Dr. Mark Edgcomb, DO, a minimally invasive surgeon specializing in advanced colorectal surgery who treats patients at HCA Houston Healthcare Kingwood, is right to be concerned.

“There’s been kind of a steady increase in colon cancer, (especially) in people between the ages of 15 and 39,” the doctor said based on his own practice and research on a website. medical.

“A lot of them are young and often they don’t necessarily go to the doctor a lot. They think nothing bad can happen to them. And so, I wondered if that led to these young patients ending up with more advanced colorectal cancer, which makes it much more difficult to treat,” he said.

According to UChicagoMedicine.org, in May 2021, the U.S. Task Force on Preventive Services lowered the age from the previous recommendation from 50 to 45, allowing insurance companies to help pay for screenings.

The rise in young adults and teens also prompted the American Cancer Society to lower the recommended age for screenings from 50 to 45 last year.

The ACS said colorectal cancer is expected to cause around 53,000 deaths in 2021 when final figures are known.

Edgcomb said he understood the fear but wanted the public to know that early detection is key.

“If we catch it early enough, it could be as simple as finding polyps and cutting them out,” he said.

The doctor recently gave a presentation to a group in Kingwood to try and raise awareness.

“The increase was about two percent, which seems small, but each of those percentage points represents a patient who could have avoided complications with screening,” the surgeon said.

The disease does not seem to discern the man or the woman.

“When you start looking at the statistical significance of this, it’s more significant in males. But both genders seemed to be increasing at a similar rate,” he concluded.

Another frightening statistic is that people under 55 who develop colorectal cancer are 58% more likely to be diagnosed with advanced disease than older adults, making cure less likely for them. , according to research by the American Cancer Society.

The verdict is still on the cause of the increase.

“It’s hard to say. No one has really been able to put their finger on it and see what exactly is causing it,” he said, but guessed it might be related to the ‘food.

Screening

There are some options for colorectal screening.

“Obviously there’s the colonoscopy if you’re a medium-risk person, you’ll usually start around 45, like all of these screening tests, unless you had symptoms first,” he said. he declares.

He also said CT colonography still requires preparation, but is less invasive and computers produce a visual of the colon with X-rays.

“With a flexible sigmoidoscopy (Flex Sig), there’s always a tube going in, they give contrast, and then they look for all kinds of wall defects. And those are like the two structural tests,” he explained .

He also said there are more non-invasive procedures.

“You have tests that look at blood in the stool, or the guaiac-based fecal occult blood test. There is another called the FIT test, the fecal immunochemical test (FIT) which uses antibodies to check for blood in the stool, and another FIT-DNA test (or stool DNA test) which uses DNA to detect altered DNA in stool,” he described. this.

“The downside with those last two is that if it shows potential, you still have to go for the colonoscopy.”

Bowel prep can vary from doctor to doctor, using pills and that yucky liquid you have to drink.

But, Edgcomb said it was important to do the preparation.

“One thing that I think kind of gets lost, in my experience sometimes people keep eating more regular foods during bowel prep which can sometimes end up leading to colonoscopy or the study much more difficult because there is still food in the colon that is blocking our ability to see the polyps,” he said, and no one wants to have to go through that again.

Symptoms

Edgcomb said part of the population is genetically affected by it, passed down from family members who had it. Then there are those who may find blood in their stool.

“Some think it was because of the hemorrhoids that made it go away,” the doctor said, but encouraged patients to get checked out.

The color can vary from bright red to dark black and the stools can also vary.

“If you lose a lot of weight, get checked out. If your blood test looks anemic or your blood count is low, get checked out,” he said. Other symptoms include rectal bleeding, abdominal pain, and fatigue.

The surgeon said it was not comfortable discussing it.

“I don’t think anyone who comes into the office is thrilled to take an exam. You know, it’s, it’s a private space, and, you know, people are worried, but it’s part of life and you have to take care of yourself to be there for your loved ones.

Avoid colorectal cancer

The number one solution is screening. The doctor also said it was important not to postpone the test. According to the ACS, 1 in 10 colorectal cancers are diagnosed in patients under the age of 50, and 60% of colorectal cancer deaths could be prevented with screening and screening can prevent colorectal cancer by finding and removing polyps before they turn into cancer.

He also warned that an episode of diverticulitis, where there is inflammation, patients should be screened after the episode.

“Some came back with cancers because they didn’t know they needed to be screened after an episode like that,” he said.

New surgical advances

Advances in surgery have greatly reduced the need for colostomies, allowing faster recovery times and minimally invasive procedures reducing hospital stays. Edgcomb uses the NICE (Natural Orifice Intracorporeal Anastomosis with Specimen Extraction) procedure developed by Dr. Eric Haas and the team at Houston Colon.

In a Houston Chronicle story last year, Haas explained how traditional surgeries required a large incision to remove the cancer.

“You couldn’t walk for a week and there could be wound infections,” he said. The incision could also lead to hernias down the road.

The NICE procedure addresses all of these complications.

According to the story, “Robotic surgery relies on several small incisions, instead of a single large cut in the abdomen. Then removal of the mass can take place in the rectum, using the body’s natural orifice The elimination of a large incision reduces recovery time, as well as hospital stays.While traditional surgery required between five and nine days in the hospital, the NICE procedure reduces the stay to an average of two nights.Patients also reported a decrease in pain.

“We rarely have to do the colostomy bag. It’s almost never,” Haas said.

As part of the Colon Cancer Awareness Celebration this March, Edgcomb is the Pied Piper for Colon Care and helps prevent the dreaded disease through education.

“Being diagnosed with cancer is scary, but one of the things that drew me to colon cancer was that if you catch it early, it’s very treatable,” he said. . “If you look at the five-year survival rates for localized cancer, they’re about 90.6 percent.” But he also warned that once it starts spreading to the liver and lungs, the outlook drops dramatically.

The message is simple: get tested. Edgcomb said there was no judgment in their practice, just doctors wanting to help people.

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