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Story Highlights

  • Consultant Gastroenterologist at the UHWI and volunteer at the Jamaica Cancer Society, Dr. Mike Mills, is appealing to Jamaicans to get screened for Colon Cancer.
  • Through screening, the colon cancer can be identified at an early stage and interventions can be done to prevent complications.
  • A healthy diet and lifestyle play a big role in lowering the risk of Colon Cancer.

The Jamaica Cancer Society is appealing to Jamaicans to get screened for Colon Cancer as this can save lives.

“Cancer of the colon is a disease that can be prevented by taking steps at the appropriate age. There are risk factors that can be identified. Everyone is at risk for Colon Cancer. Once you hit age 45 to 50, your risk of Colon Cancer increases and this is when we start to institute screening,” Consultant Gastroenterologist at the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI), and volunteer at the Jamaica Cancer Society Dr. Mike Mills state.

He was addressing a Jamaica Information Service (JIS) Think Tank Session on Tuesday (March 4), to launch Colon Cancer Awareness Month which is being observed during March.

Dr. Mike Mills, explained that through screening, the condition can be identified at an early stage and interventions can be done to prevent complications.

He said that colon polyps, which develop along the lining of the colon, usually develop into cancer and if caught early can be removed by Colonoscopy which is one type of screening.

The Gastroenterologist outlined other screening methods such as the Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT), Barium Enema and Sigmoidoscopy, however he insisted that the Colonoscopy, was the “gold standard test” and that it was highly recommended because it allowed for the immediate removal of polyps.

Dr. Mills noted that although age was the number one risk factor in colon cancer, others also play a role. “Genetics plays a significant role as well. We find that for a quarter of patients there is a family history of colon cancer…the more individuals in the family that have Colon Cancer, the stronger your risk profile for Colon Cancer,” he explained.

He said it was very important to identify the cancer profile of one’s family (immediate or extended).

Dr. Mills added that if a family member had been previously diagnosed, the age of diagnosis should be used to determine the age of screening for other family members.

He recommended that other members of the family be screened 10 years before attaining the age at which the older family member was diagnosed, as polyps take that approximate time to develop into Cancer.

“The earlier you present, the better the outcome in terms of treatment,” he observed.

Dr. Mills also pointed out that a healthy diet and lifestyle play a big role in lowering the risk of Colon Cancer and recommended increased intake of fresh fruits and vegetables, fibre and water as well as exercise.

He added however, that they do not eliminate risk, and screening should be done at about age 50.

He further recommended that persons stay away from high consumption of fat, red meat and processed meat; limit alcohol intake to 1-2 glasses of red wine per day; and eliminating smoking as a control factor – not just for colon cancer but for other cancers as well.