Colon cancer is the third leading cause of cancer and second leading cause of cancer related deaths for both men and women in the United States. Despite being one of the most preventable and curable cancers, approximately 150,000 people are diagnosed with colon cancer annually and approximately 50,000 people die of colon cancer every year. Given these numbers, we are all driven to get colonoscopies that can find and remove the cancer precursors, or polyps. If all the polyps are removed, we presume that a tumor can never grow. So, detecting and removing polyps is the key to early diagnosis and prevention of colorectal cancer. So, imagine my surprise when our guest today taught me that somewhere around twenty percent of colon cancer diagnoses are made in people that had clean colonoscopies in the prior three years!
The numbers are staggering…approximately 15 million colonoscopies are performed in the United States each year. I know you are doing your back of the envelop calculations to let me help…that represents 75 million feet or 14,000 miles of colon being looked at each year. Finding polyps during the exam depends on the doctor’s experience, skills, attention, and the preparation condition.
Patients, who get a colonoscopy, do so with the hope and expectation of preventing the development of colon cancer within one to a few years of the colonoscopy…but colonoscopies are not perfect and in fact about 17- 48% of polyps are missed.
In this episode, we are joined by Dr. Shyam Thakkar. Dr. Thakkar is one of the physicians working tirelessly every day to make sure that doctors do not miss polyps during exams and that people do not die from Colon Cancer.