African Americans have the highest rates of colon cancer (also known as colorectal cancer). We face a 20 percent higher risk of developing colon cancer and a 45 percent higher mortality rate than any other race. Although this disease is the third cause of cancer-related deaths in the Black community, it’s highly preventable. BlackDoctor.org spoke with several medical professionals to see what can be done to lower the risk of colon cancer.
Dr. Strick Woods, gastroenterologist based in Bridgeport, CT, says that screening is the first step towards Black men lowering their risk. The American College of Gastroenterologists recommends Black men be screened starting at age 45 – five years earlier than whites. The reason? Colon cancer is often diagnosed in African Americans at a younger age. Dr. Woods says the current compliance rate for colonoscopies is at a mere 38 percent. African American have a notably low screening rate which puts us at adverse risk for developing colon cancer. Dr. Woods suggests a new way for Black men to get screened from the privacy of their home.
Cologuard is an at-home stool test that detects certain genetic markers associated with colon cancer. It’s recommended for anyone over the age of 50 that doesn’t get the prescribed colonoscopy every five years. Users who test positive for these genetic markers are referred to get a colonoscopy at their doctor.
“Cologuard is poised to change that low compliance rate by screening more people. Unlike other screening options—patients take Cologuard in the comfort of their own home, with no prep (drinking of that solution), no invasive procedure, no sedation, no time off of work. Literally, all you have to do is provide a sample (poop in a cup that clips on to your toilet) and mail it to the lab for analysis (UPS will pick it up for you). Cologuard is a first of its kind test that looks for both blood and DNA in a person’s stool, flagging cancerous and pre-cancerous cells (if pre-cancerous cells are found and removed, cancer is prevented from ever forming). A New England Journal of Medicine study found that the test identified 92 percent of colon cancers with 87 percent specificity. “