Colon Cancer: Overview of Colon Cancer

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Guest: Dr. Brenda J. Hoffman - Gastroenterology and Hepatology
Host: Dr. Linda Austin

Announcer: Welcome to an MUSC Health Podcast

Dr. Linda Austin: I am Dr. Linda Austin and I am talking with Dr. Brenda J. Hoffman, who is Professor of Medicine at MUSC. She is one of the leading colonoscopists at the Digestive Disease Center. Dr. Hoffman, you are really passionate about the need for people to get colonoscopy screening exams. Just how common is colon cancer?

Dr. Brenda J. Hoffman: It is the second leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States and I think that surprises people because some types of cancer like breast for example are much more in the news than colon cancer and somehow colon cancer seems like a not so polite conversation for individuals, but it is a second leading cause of cancer-related death and the third leading cause of cancer overall.

Dr. Linda Austin: One of your concerns I know has been that not enough people have been getting screened for colon cancer. Do you have numbers as to what that percentage is?

Dr. Brenda J. Hoffman: If we look at Medicare for example, which is more closely monitored and easy to follow, we see that only about 25% of individuals who should be screened are being screened and there are many factors that relate to that; part of it is financial because if the cost involved in getting the screening and getting the examinations, but it is now covered by Medicare. The other problems relate to lack of knowledge about who is at risk and also to fears. People have fear someone they know had a bad experience or something happened in terms of a complication and because of that they have a fear of having the examination performed.

Dr. Linda Austin: Do you find that one gender or the other men are more scared of getting colonoscopy than women or vice versa?

Dr. Brenda J. Hoffman: For women, its interesting. Its not so much a fear of having it, but women definitely have a preference for who perform s their examination, which is great for me because women want a female to do their examination and thats seen across the United States in particular, not so much in other countries. But it is not a fear, but a perception. Women do not pursue themselves at risk for colon cancer. They do make their husbands get colonoscopy and screening, but then they focus on mammograms and Pap smear and not so much on their own colonoscopy.

Dr. Linda Austin: I wonder if one of the issues -- isnt that there are so many things you have to get screen. I was thinking the other day that gosh, if you did everything you needed to do your eye testing, getting your teeth checked, and your Pap smear, and your mammogram, and your colonoscopy, and your annual physical, I mean it really does start to feel like a lot of different screening exams.

Dr. Brenda J. Hoffman: Well, it really is and the unique thing about colonoscopy is that if your family history is negative and you have a negative examination its once every 10 years.

Dr. Linda Austin: And why is it that you can get by with having it so infrequently?

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