March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month and the most effective way to prevent colorectal cancer is to get screened. However, according to Dr. David Kastenberg, All colonoscopies are not created equal – quality matters. Adenoma Detection Rates (ADR), completion rates and proper preparations are all things Dr. Kastenberg recommends patients ask about before they get their colonoscopy.
ADR is probably the best determinant of quality. It represents the percentage of patients in whom at least one adenoma, a type of precancerous polyp is found; the higher the ADR, the lower the chance of developing colon cancer before the next colonoscopy. At a minimum, a doctor’s ADR should be at least 25 percent for average risk patients. Colonoscopy quality varies considerably between physicians; this can dramatically impact the protection offered by colonoscopy for developing colon cancer. Jefferson’s ADR is over 40 percent.
Family history also matters – patients should start at age 40 if there is a family history of colon cancer. If not, begin at age 50. African Americans have a higher risk for colon cancer, therefore the American College of Gastroenterology recommends screening beginning at age 45.
Lifestyle changes can also help reduce your risk. These include:
- Giving up smoking
- Getting to and maintaining a healthy weight
- Eating less red meat
- Eating more fruits and vegetables
- Exercising regularly