A Conversation with: Kirk Ludwig, MD
Medical College of Wisconsin Colorectal Surgeon
Q. Who is most at risk for colorectal cancer?
If you have a family history or personal history of colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer, you are at increased risk for developing this cancer. Age is also a factor. More than 90 percent of people with colorectal cancer are over 50.
Q. How can you decrease your personal risk?
We tell people to eat a high-fiber diet that is low in animal fat, eat a lot of leafy green vegetables and get regular exercise. A diet high in calcium can also help reduce your risk. In addition, smoking and excessive alcohol intakes have been identified as risk factors for colorectal cancer.
Q. What are the symptoms of colorectal cancer?
The two major symptoms are blood in or with a bowel movement and a change in bowel habits. Symptoms can also include abdominal pain or anal/rectal pain or discomfort. But there usually aren’t any symptoms of colorectal cancer, so if you are waiting for symptoms, you are waiting too long. That is why screening is so important.
Q. What are the most reliable screening methods?
There are several different methods, but we recommend colonoscopy. The advantage of colonoscopy is that it detects and treats at the same time – when a polyp is found during a colonoscopy, it can be removed right away.
Q. How often should a person get screened?
For the average-risk individual, regular screenings should begin at age 50. If your colonoscopy is normal, then nothing further needs to be done for 10 years (unless you have symptoms). People with a family or personal history of colorectal cancer or colorectal polyps should begin screening earlier.
Source: Froedtert Today
Date: August 2008