Fort Wayne Ink Spot (FWIS): Father’s Day (June 16) is just right around the corner. Although not limited to men, colon cancer has had obvious adverse effects on the African-American community, historically and disproportionally. How should we address the importance of screenings for colon cancer, especially to the fathers and grandfathers in our readership?
Dr. Elhassan: Colon cancer is the third leading cancer in the country. It follows prostate and lung cancer in men, and it follows breast and lung cancer in women. Colon cancer is the second killing cancer in the country for both men and women, with about new 50,000 deaths every year.
Unfortunately, the risk and mortality rate is a higher with African-Americans. Based on numbers over the last 10 to 15 years, African-Americans have 25% higher risk of developing colon cancer compared to any other ethnic group in the country, and they also have 50% percent higher risk of dying compared to other ethnic groups.
Also, African-Americans have higher levels of staging of the disease at the time of diagnosis, which puts them at poorer outcomes.
There are so many factors affecting this including a lack of knowledge of the importance of the screening of colon cancer, as well as a lack of access to medical care or resources A lot of African-Americans here in Fort Wayne are just not coming for screenings.
One thing with colon cancer that can be very tricky is the symptoms of colon cancer. Colon cancer can present with so many symptoms like as rectal bleeding, abdominal pain, a change in bowl habits, fatigue, loss of weight and appetite, and constipation. These symptoms can be for other illnesses. This is sometimes why a lot of people brush-off their symptoms.
Most patients diagnosed with colon cancer did not have any symptoms at the time of diagnosis or two to three years before their diagnosis, which makes screening very important.
I always tell my patients that you owe it to yourself and the people you love around you to have your colon screened.
FWIS: What’s the best age to start colon screening?
Dr. Elhassan: The medical guidelines set the age for screenings at 50 years old for all males and females without symptoms. For African-Americans the age was set at 45. There is now a push to lower the guidelines to 45 years age for everyone.
FWIS: How does someone arrange a screening?
Screenings are available at different hospitals and medical facilities. And most of insurances do cover colonoscopy screenings 100%. You just need to contact your primary doctor and mention your interest in a colon cancer screening. It’s a shared responsibility between the individual and the physician to have the colon screening.