Better Health: Smart Health Commentary Better Health (TM): smart health commentary

Article Comments

Dr. Oz’s First Colonoscopy Finds Pre-Cancerous Polyp: What Can This Teach Us?

Dr. LaPook and Dr. OzDr. Mehmet Oz just might be the last person on earth people would expect to get a colon polyp. He’s physically fit (he left me in the dust the last time we ran together), he eats a healthy diet, he doesn’t smoke, and he has no family history of colorectal cancer or colon polyps.

But several weeks ago, when Mehmet had his first screening colonoscopy at age 50, I removed a small adenomatous polyp that had the potential to turn into cancer over time. Statistically, most small polyps like his don’t become cancer. But almost all colon cancers begin as benign polyps that gradually become malignant over about 10 to 15 years.

Since there’s no way of knowing which polyps will turn bad, we take them all out. The good news is there’s plenty of opportunity to prevent cancer by removing these polyps while they are still benign. But only about 63 percent of Americans between ages 50 and 75 get screened for colorectal cancer.

Patients who smoke, eat diets high in red and processed meats, drink too much alcohol, don’t exercise, and are obese are at increased risk of colorectal cancer. So Mehmet’s healthy lifestyle may actually have protected him from having a bigger polyp — or even colorectal cancer by now.

But the bottom line is this: No matter what you do, you can’t totally eliminate your risk of developing this disease, which is expected to strike 143,000 Americans and kill over 51,000 in 2010.

About the same number of women is affected as men. And about seventy percent of patients have no family history of colorectal cancer.

The take-away message is clear: Everybody should discuss with their doctor getting screened for colon cancer by age 50 — earlier if there’s an increased risk because of factors like a family history of colon cancer, a family history of an adenomatous colon polyp before age 60, or inflammatory bowel disease.

African Americans tend to get colon cancer earlier than Caucasians and have a 50 percent greater death rate from it, so some experts recommend beginning screening at age 45 in this group.

Discuss with your doctor what test makes the most sense for you and when you should get it. Screening tests include colonoscopy, virtual colonoscopy using a CT scan, barium enema, flexible sigmoidoscopy, and various stool tests looking for invisible blood or other markers.

Ten years ago, Katie Couric’s televised colonoscopy led to a 20 percent increase in screening colonoscopies across America — a stunning rise called the “Katie Couric Effect.” Here’s hoping for a “Dr. Oz Effect.”


You may also like these posts

Read comments »


Comments are closed.

Return to article »

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

Read more »

How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

Read more »

See all interviews »

Latest Cartoon

See all cartoons »

Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

Read more »

The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

Read more »

Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

Read more »

See all book reviews »