STATEN ISLAND, NY - The passing of “The Simpsons” co-creator Sam Simon on Sunday from terminal colon cancer at the age of 59 is a reminder to all that routine screening for this disease is important.
The Emmy Award winning television producer was diagnosed with cancer in 2012. His battle with the disease brought more awareness to colon cancer.
“The most important take away from this is that colorectal cancer is most often a preventable disease through routine colonoscopy,” said George G. Abdelsayed, MD, director of the division of gastroenterology and hepatology at Staten Island University Hospital. "Cancer is easy to spot; even polyps, where most cancers develop from. Not only does a colonoscopy have the potential to prevent colon cancer, but also to detect it at an earlier stage where it is more curable."
According to American Cancer Society estimates, there will be 93,090 new cases of colon cancer and 39,610 new cases of rectal cancer in 2015. Overall, the lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer is about one in 20 or five percent.
“Many people view a colonoscopy as a cumbersome procedure because it’s an invasive procedure with cleansing preparation, fasting, anesthesia and perhaps a measure of embarrassment,” Dr. Abdelsayed said. “It’s not as simple as a blood test.”
According to guidelines, screening should begin at age 50 and, due to an increased risk (according to studies), African Americans should start at age 45. Individuals who have first-degree family with colorectal cancer should be screened even earlier than that.
“Colonoscopy is a test that can save your life,” Dr. Abdelsayed said. “There is no clear first alternative. All the other tests are a very distant second.”