Dr. Ryan Williams is a colorectal surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic. A graduate of Albion College, he completed medical school at Michigan State University.
Williams specializes in diseases of the colon and rectum. Colon cancer is one of the most common types of cancer and it’s preventable. If detected early, it’s also one of the most curable.
Dr. Ryan Williams answered your questions about colon cancer below:
Why does this country have such a phobia of the anus? Getting a colonic is the best thing anyone can do to prevent colon cancer.
Not true. Colonics do not prevent colon cancer at all. Colonoscopies are without a doubt, the single best way to help prevent colon cancer.
The age for a colonoscopy should be changed. Younger people are being diagnosed with colon cancer. My 29-year-old daughter was 27 when she was diagnosed and had surgery.
I had a sorority sister diagnosed at 30 with colon cancer? How do you prevent that?
There will unfortunately be patients diagnosed with colon cancer who aren’t the usual age of those diagnosed, just as there are young people who have heart attacks.
We have many things that influence our lives. Many of these we can’t explain in medicine or science. The average age of colorectal cancer is early seventies. If it takes between 7-10 years for a polyp to become a cancer it makes sense to begin screenings around age 50.
Are there any new advances in the actual test for the colonoscopy?
The use of carbon dioxide gas can lessen the amount of distention (bloating) associated with the procedure.
Will having hemorrhoids cause you to have more of a chance of getting colon cancer?
They will not.
Morgan Spurlock, on CNN, went to Thailand for a colonoscopy that involved him swallowing a poll which contained a camera. It was much less expensive, less time-consuming and far less invasive. Why isn’t that same procedure available here? The patient/ insurers cost was $400.
Swallowing a pill-cam is not the same as a colonoscopy. It cannot treat problems found. The liquids that clean the colon still need to be taken. If something is seen, a colonoscopy would need to be performed with the liquids taken again. Procedure “costs” will vary by insurers as well as by country.
I just lost a cousin to colon cancer at age 46. He was diagnosed at 43. He played basketball, was in the military – picture of health. His mother died of breast cancer at a young age. Are these cancers closely related?
Some cancers such as breast, colon, endometrial, ovarian, urinary tract cancers can cluster in families and be related to each other. When we see this clustering, the risk of any of these cancers increases.
So is the best cancer-fighting diet Mediterranean?
The Mediterranean diet was found in studies to significantly decrease patient’s risk of developing colon cancer. The decrease was even greater than a vegan diet.
Do vegetarians get colon cancer?
Vegetarians can develop colon cancer also, but the risk of development has been found to be significantly less (20%) than non-vegetarians.
How often should a person get a colonoscopy?
Colonoscopies should begin at age 45 for African-Americans and be repeated every 10 years or less depending on family history and as well as depending on what is found during the initial or subsequent procedures. If a polyp is found, the recommendation is to have a colonoscopy in 5 years.
Can kids have colorectal cancer?
It is extremely rare for a child to develop colorectal cancer, but it can develop.
Would it be a good idea to get colonics throughout life?
It is not a good idea to get colonics throughout life, as they do not prevent colon or rectal cancer.
Why would surgery be recommended after having a very large benign polyp removed?
Surgery is sometimes recommended in this situation if the polyp is too large to be removed safely during a colonoscopy or if the polyp showed advanced changes towards becoming a cancer
Doc, I had a colon screening done about 6 months ago and now I notice that my waste smells really bad every time I go. Does that mean anything?
It possibly means the bacteria in colon may have changed in the last 6 months or that the foods you are eating have changed.
If you had anal cancer, are you a candidate for colon cancer?
Yes, having anal cancer does keep you at risk for developing colon or rectal cancer.
I was diagnosed with diverticulitis and treated successfully, wore a colostomy for a year and just recently had the colostomy reversed. Should I be concerned about later complications?
Although rare, problems can occur after having surgery such as obstruction and hernia development. Your colon is still at risk for developing cancer.
I request a colonoscopy, my doctor say I do not need it. I am 49 and black. What can I do to get it done? The doctor is my primary.
The usual recommendation for African-Americans is to begin colonoscopy at age 45. This can be mentioned to your doctor. A consultation with an endoscopist may also be a route taken to obtain a colonoscopy.
Why does it appear all the diseases are higher for blacks?
We don’t know the exact cause and research has not shown an exact cause as to why colon cancer is higher in African-Americans.
Doctor, If after having your first colonoscopy and everything looks good, how often should you continue to have them performed? What is the earliest that you can get colonoscopy?
Colonoscopy can be done at any age depending on symptoms a patient may have.
My husband was just diagnosed with prostate cancer and just got his hormone shot. Could this shot alone remove the cancer? What if you’ve been bleeding for about 25 years do that mean you have colon cancer
It does not mean you have colon cancer, but it is something that should be investigated potentially with a colonoscopy.
Does getting checked mean that the doctor has to put his fingers or other objects in my rectum?
To do a colonoscopy, this does have to be done. A camera is used to view the colon and rectal lining. It should be painless, but necessary to visualize the organ walls.
Are colon cleansing routines or products worth enduring or are they just money-making scams?
Colon cleansing can easily be accomplished by consuming adequate fiber and liquids. This should help keep your colon healthy without having to ‘endure’ a routine.
What is lazy bowel syndrome? What is a good product to take or drink to use as a colon cleanser?
This is a term sometimes used to describe many different symptoms of digestion including constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, or “spastic colon.”
More information about colon cancer:
What can you do to prevent colon cancer?
Adopt a diet with vegetables and fruits high in fiber. A recent study of 77,000 people (published in JAMA Internal Medicine) found that eating a predominantly vegetarian diet with some fish can help decrease the risk of developing colon cancer. People in the study were eating a Mediterranean diet, which also includes nuts and healthy oils like olive oil.
“Any of the vegetables and fruits that are high in fiber are the ones we are looking for to help clear out the colon and help decrease that risk of colon cancer.”
Don’t think you’re at risk because you don’t have any symptoms?
Most patients who develop colon cancer have no obvious risk factors. Colon cancer grows from precancerous polyps that rarely cause symptoms.Polyps are growths on the inside of the colon that can become cancerous.
Know when to get a colonoscopy.
Are you 50 years old? Do you have a family history of colon cancer? Starting at age 50, get regular colon cancer screenings. Start at age 45 if you are African-American. That’s the age at which your risk starts increasing. If colon cancer runs in your family, talk to your doctor about starting screenings earlier.
Why a colonoscopy?
It is the best tool we have to screen AND remove polyps at the same time. The procedure is safe in the hands of experts. it’s important to find an experienced colonoscopist who can spot polyps of different shapes in locations that can be difficult to find and who knows how to take them off in the safest way possible.
Learn more at clevelandclinic.org/marchforth