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Luke Perry's Colon Cancer Scare Spotlights Need for Testing

Luke Perry's Colon Cancer Scare Spotlights Need for Testing
(Copyright: AP)

By    |   Wednesday, 22 March 2017 01:12 PM

TV star Luke Perry’s colon cancer scare demonstrates why people need to be tested to thwart this killer disease, a top expert says.

Perry, the former teen idol who starred in“90210,” recently opened up about his colon cancer scare, saying that he underwent a screening test two years ago, which resulted in the removal of precancerous growths.

The actor’s experience demonstrates how undergoing screening can save lives, Heather Hampel tells Newsmax Health.

"One of the keys to beating many types of cancer is catching it early, and the best way to do that is to know a patient’s risk so we can monitor them closely and treat them at the first sign of trouble,” says Hampel, a licensed genetic counselor at the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Nearly 96,000 new cases of colon cancer and about 40,000 new cases of rectal cancer are diagnosed each year in the U.S., the American Cancer Society says.

This makes colorectal cancer (colon and rectal cancer) the third most common form of cancer in the U.S. They are second leading cause of death from cancer, statistics show.

“Colon cancer traditionally is viewed as an ‘old-people’ disease, but a recent study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, finds that colon cancer rates have actually increased for people in their 20s and 30s, and at a faster rate than middle-aged adults,” says Hampel, principal investigator of Ohio Colorectal Cancer Prevention Initiative.

Perry, now 50, and starring in the TV show “Riverdale,” has been making the rounds of talk shows in March, which is Colon Cancer Awareness Month.

He is serving as a spokesperson for colon cancer awareness because the wife of a childhood friend was recently diagnosed with advanced colon cancer, he says.

The death rate from colon cancer is high because most tumors are diagnosed at an advanced stage. But it’s estimated that 60 percent of cases could be picked up through timely screening, Hampel says.

But it’s important to know that not all people require screening at the same age, she adds.

Although federal health officials recommend colonoscopy screening begin at the age of 50 for adults, the testing should actually begin much earlier for those who have genetic risk factors for the disease, she says.

“Probably about 5-10 percent of colon cancers are hereditary, which means they are due to one strong gene running in the family. Another 10-15 percent is what we call familial, which is probably a couple of minor genes along with shared environmental exposures.”

Lynch syndrome, known as HNPCC, is a form of genetic colon cancer. This form is of particular concern because some 1.2 million Americans may have it.

“It’s much more common than we originally thought,” Hampel says.

People with Lynch syndrome also have a higher risk of cancers of the stomach, small intestine, liver, gallbladder ducts, upper urinary tract, brain, and skin,

The genetic syndrome also increases ovarian and uterine (endometrial) cancer in women, research shows.

“Despite this, our survey shows that only 5 percent of people with Lynch syndrome are aware they do,” Hampel says.

This is why Lynch syndrome has its own awareness day, which takes place this week, she says.

Federal health guidelines call for adults to undergo a colonoscopy to screen for colon cancer age the age of 50, and have it repeated every 10 years.  But people at risk for Lynch syndrome should begin screening in their 20s and be tested every few years, Hampel says. They should also consider genetic testing.

“For many years genetic counseling was thought of as very expensive or inaccessible so I want people to know that the cost has dropped drastically,” she says.

Most genetic screening is covered by insurance. If this is not the case, the cost can range from $249 to $475, she says.

But most colon cancer cases are classified as “sporadic,” meaning they occur for no known reason, says Hampel.

“This is why everyone should talk to their doctor about when to begin colon cancer screening,” she says.

According to Hampel, people with these risk factors should undergo genetic screening:

  • Anyone in the family with uterine or colon cancer diagnosed under the age of 50.
  • Anyone in the family with more than one case of colon, uterine, ovarian, or stomach cancer over their lifetime.
  • Three cases of any of those four cancers on one side of the family regardless of age of diagnosis.

In addition to screening, here are the American Cancer Society’s top six ways to prevent colon cancer:

  1. Eat lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
  2. Eat less red meat (beef, pork and lamb) and processed meats (hot dogs and some luncheon meats), which have been linked to increased colon cancer risk.
  3. Get regular exercise.
  4. Watch your weight. Obesity increases colon cancer risk.
  5. Don’t smoke. Long-term smokers are more likely to develop and die from colon cancer.
  6. Limit alcohol. Colon cancer is linked to heavy drinking.

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TV star Luke Perry discusses his colon cancer scare, and a top expert offers tips on how to find out if you are at a genetically higher risk of developing this dread disease.
Luke, Perry, colon, cancer, Lynch, syndrome, genetics
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2017-12-22
Wednesday, 22 March 2017 01:12 PM
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